A furious Erik ten Hag accused his Manchester United players of collapsing like a “pack of cards” in their 6-3 humiliation by Manchester City.
Erling Haaland and Phil Foden both scored hat-tricks, with Ten Hag admitting he had chosen not to bring substitute Cristiano Ronaldo off the bench when United were already 4-0 down “out of respect” for the striker's fine career.
On a dismal day for United, Roy Keane also blasted the treatment meted out by his former club to Ronaldo this season, while the club's former defender Gary Neville claimed his old team “bottled it”. Many United fans were also pictured streaming out of the Etihad Stadium at half-time,
“The plan was to show bravery and confidence but we didn't from the first minute,” Ten Hag said. “For the first goal we won the ball and could have created a great chance but instead we gave it easily away and then it was like a pack of cards.
“I criticised them, I told them. Me as well, because I didn’t get the message through. With this lack of confidence we cannot win games. I don't think this attitude is Manchester United, we can act much more brave.
“We are in the process and I knew before that big teams like City, when you are not good you get hammered and we were not good. We didn't follow the rules and principles of the way we play and you get hammered. We have to accept that but this performance was not acceptable.”
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When asked why he did not bring on Ronaldo, Ten Hag replied: “I wouldn't bring him in because we are 4-0 down, out of respect for Cristiano, for his big career, and the other thing was the advantage that I could bring Anthony Martial on and he needs the minutes."
On whether he sympathised with the fans who left early, Ten Hag added: “Yes, of course. In a derby when you are 4-0 it is unacceptable.”
United, whose former manager Sir Alex Ferguson was pictured in the stands grim-faced, were accused of not showing enough heart by Neville.
“The Manchester United players have bottled it, there's no doubt,” he said. “They have been really nervous. They have just not handled this derby at all.”
Meanwhile, Keane, the former United captain, lambasted the decision not to play Ronaldo more frequently, warning the situation at the club could "turn ugly" unless a solution is found.
"I think Man United are showing disrespect to Ronaldo. I think he should have been let go before the [closing] of the window," Keane told Sky Sports. "Okay, you're the manager, you need options but you don't hold onto Ronaldo to sit on the bench. He's one of the greatest players ever.
"If he's sitting on the bench for United, week in, week out it's just going to get uglier. I think United have shown nothing but disrespect to Ronaldo.
'They should have let him go when the opportunity came. He did have options, I know that for a fact. But to hold onto Ronaldo to sit on the bench, I think is ridiculous for a player of his stature."
Keane added that the defeat was “hugely embarrassing. As brilliant as City were, United were desperate, particularly in midfield. They were over-ran. Again we look at leadership [and] there was nothing there from Man United.”
Haaland has now scored hat-tricks in his last three Premier League games at the Etihad Stadium. At the end of the game he and Foden grabbed match balls to take home, and it meant Haaland has as many hat-tricks in the competition as Ronaldo despite only arriving in the summer.
City manager Pep Guardiola described his player as a natural-born goal-scorer whose game is getting better as he is still adapting to his new team.
“Of course the quality we have alongside him helps him to score goals. But what he has done, I didn’t teach him once,” said Guardiola. “How he moves behind the central defenders. He has incredible instincts that the ball will arrive there and it comes from his mum and dad, he was born with that and just to help him produce more goals.
“He said: ‘I prefer to touch the ball five times and score five goals’. I don’t like that, I want him to touch the ball more. He will have a break. There will be games he is going to play. Now we are lucky. Last season he could not play many games, he was injured all the time. When he arrived here we have incredible physios – thanks to them he can play every 90 minutes.”
United also lost Raphaël Varane to injury in the first half, although the France centre-back did not require treatment in the dressing room and was able to sit on the bench when he went off.
Ten Hag punished his players after the defeat to Brentford with an extra training session and running to make up the difference with their opponents during the game, but he says the players’ mentality was a bigger problem after this humbling defeat.
“The punishment is a reason, they outrun us and we didn't work hard enough. Today is also mental but it's a different mental issue, it's like belief. It’s not always about punishment, of course, we have to criticise each other, so I didn't get the message right to the players, the belief to the pitch, our way of playing. That's disappointing. It's good it happens against City and you get quite clear what happens when you don't bring it.”
Christian Eriksen, meanwhile, says United must make changes to recover from this defeat.
“We lacked courage to play out from the back and allowed them to play at their strength. The focus is on ourselves and there are a lot of things we need to change and to do better, it was far from acceptable for what we should be doing,” he said.