Erik ten Hag said Manchester United must learn how to recover during games when things go wrong after they were humbled 3-0 by Sevilla to crash out of the Europa League.
United capitulated after going behind inside eight minutes to Youssef En-Nesyri‚Äôs goal in the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium on Thursday, with captain Harry Maguire‚Äôs mistake setting the tone for a miserable night in Andalusia.
It capped a wretched collapse for Ten Hag‚Äôs team across the tie, having thrown away a 2-0 lead late in the first leg at Old Trafford to place themselves on the back foot ahead of the trip to Spain.
Ten Hag said he was impressed by his players‚Äô ability to bounce back between matches, but that it means little if they cannot learn to recover in the moment.
‚ÄúWe have to acknowledge that it‚Äôs mental, definitely,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe have to learn that you keep going, that you carry on.
‚ÄúThis team, what they can do very well is bounce back in between games. What they do less is bounce back during a game, in a setback. That‚Äôs what we have to improve.
‚ÄúThe demands on this team because we are Man United are high. We have to deal with it. We have to improve it. So I have to teach the players, and the players have to step up.‚ÄĚ
United will have a chance to answer their manager‚Äôs challenge when they face Brighton in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Sunday.
It represents the team‚Äôs last chance of adding to the Carabao Cup they won in February, after the prospect of a cup treble was extinguished by defeat in Spain.
Ten Hag defended his skipper Maguire, saying that despite his costly error for En-Nesyri‚Äôs opener and speculation linking him with a move he remains a key leadership figure.
The manager reflected that it is the nature of life at United to constantly be under pressure to prove oneself.
‚ÄúMaguire has an important role,‚ÄĚ said Ten Hag. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs the captain, he leads, he communicates with the manager, he motivates the team. He‚Äôs the example on the training pitch.
‚ÄúI think during the season we have made huge progress. But we have still a way to go. So we have to step up.
‚ÄúThe good thing is Sunday is the next opportunity, and it‚Äôs a great opportunity. It‚Äôs a semi-final of the FA Cup. A better event you can‚Äôt imagine.
‚ÄúBut after it, there are still a lot of great games to go. We have to prove it. This group of players have to prove it.‚ÄĚ