Erik ten Hag insists he made the right choice joining Manchester United despite admitting it was flattering to hear Pep Guardiola tout him as a potential successor at Manchester City.
Ten Hag and Guardiola will go head to head in the Manchester derby on Sunday when United visit the Premier League champions.
Guardiola claimed Ten Hag was one of the managers who would be a good fit to replace him at City only weeks before the Dutchman agreed to take over at Old Trafford.
But Ten Hag insists he has no regrets about leaving Ajax to take on the huge challenge at United rather than sitting tight and waiting for the possibility of succeeding Guardiola, who is in the final year of his current contract at City and yet to commit to a new deal.
Asked about Guardiola’s remarks, the United manager said: “That’s a nice compliment, first. But I chose Manchester United 100 per cent convinced about everything in it and I don’t regret it for one second.”
Ten Hag worked as coach of Bayern Munich’s second team during Guardiola’s spell in charge of the German giants and insisted he had a lot of admiration for the Catalan.
“First of all, most important, no person is the same – I have to stick by myself,” Ten Hag said. “But then I learn a lot from many human beings in football, but especially from top coaches. I admire Pep Guardiola a lot because he is not only successful, but he is doing it in a certain way that really attracts people to football. That is really a reward.”
Ten Hag hopes to have forwards Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial fit and available after both returned to training following injuries and wants United – who have already beaten Liverpool and Arsenal this season – to play their own game and not obsess about City’s threat.
But Harry Maguire will be missing because of a thigh injury sustained during his error-strewn performance in England’s 3-3 draw with Germany on Monday.
The game piled more pressure on the embattled United captain, who has been the subject of some appalling abuse on social media, but Ten Hag insisted the defender had the support of everyone at the club.
“I have to coach him. I have to back him. But I back him because I believe in him,” Ten Hag said. “In the period I worked with him in pre-season was good, really good, training and games. So then he fell out [of the team] – but it’s also to do with the good performance of the centre backs who are playing now [Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez], but I can see even after he wasn’t in the team he trained really well, but more important, the quality was there.
“What you see is he [Maguire] has a high potential. Then it is about him. The players in the dressing room, the coaches, the manager, we all believe in him. Now it is about him. That’s what I told him. I’m sure he can do it. He will turn this around. I am really convinced of that.”
Asked about any mental health concerns he had around Maguire, Ten Hag added: “It’s an aspect of top football. We set conditions for that, to manage it. We also have experts around to help, to coach the players, the team in the right direction.
“I think he [Maguire] is doing quite well, but every player has room for improvement and if he believes in his skills he will quickly be back on the level and even more than he did. I am convinced of that because I see his capabilities and it’s really high.”