Erik ten Hag has warned it will take “months” to consistently produce the intensity Manchester United need to become a force again.
There was an air of optimism at Old Trafford following four consecutive Premier League wins, but that came to a juddering halt when the Red Devils suffered a chastening 6-3 derby defeat at Manchester City last Sunday.
The champions tore United apart, Erling Haaland and Phil Foden scoring hat-tricks in a rout at the Etihad Stadium.
Ten Hag’s side came from behind to win 3-2 at Omonia Nicosia in the Europa League on Thursday and return to top-flight action with a trip to Everton on Sunday.
Dutchman Ten Hag, who left Ajax to take the United hot seat at the end of last season, says it will take time for his side to reach the sort of levels he expects.
“It’s more – it’s physical, it’s mental, it’s also sustainability,” he said.
“It’s like a routine, a way of life and you have to bring it to every training in your system, as a squad and an individual player.
“When you have had a lack of it in the last years, it’s not something that you build or progress in a week or a month.
“Now it’s a system that has to be [in place]. It is a demand nowadays top football and it’s quite clear City is the standard in that. There are more teams, but I think we can deliver that.
“We have seen it against Liverpool and we have seen it against Arsenal, but now we have to do it on a consistent basis, that is what we have to work for now.
“It will not come overnight, it will also take more than weeks – it will take months.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 7, 2022
Ten Hag also expects United to be more disciplined and streetwise.
He added: “I know nasty, I know what it is. In that manner we can progress but sometimes also play a little bit smarter.
“Like we have too many bookings and some players at the start of Premier League, they play tough.
“But I wonder [why] we collect so many bookings and I don’t understand, like the first booking [for Diogo Dalot at City] on Sunday, I really don’t understand.
“We want to play tough, we want to keep the game going and then in the second minute already it’s a booking for Diogo.
“Also, I saw many other bookings where I think, ‘Is that necessary?’ I have to keep the reminder to the players to play smart, but they have to play nasty as well.”
Raphael Varane could return from an ankle injury at Goodison Park, but Harry Maguire remains sidelined along with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Donny van de Beek.