Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has defended his players after they confronted the referee during Sunday’s goalless draw against Newcastle United, saying the reaction was not too strong despite the club being charged by the Football Association.
The FA charged United on Tuesday for failing to control their players, who surrounded referee Craig Pawson after he disallowed a goal by Cristiano Ronaldo in the Premier League clash at Old Trafford.
Ronaldo claimed Newcastle had taken a free kick before he raced to take the ball away from goalkeeper Nick Pope and slotted it into an empty net, but Pawson disallowed the effort and booked the Portuguese forward as he led the players’ reaction.
“I must say I don’t think it was too strong, it wasn’t really aggressive but I don’t know what’s happening exactly on the pitch, I was too far away,” Ten Hag told reporters before United host Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday.
🧠 “You have to protect players as a manager to get the best out of them, not only from the risk of injury but also to keep them in the right form until the end of the season,” says Erik. 🔄#MUFC || #MUNTOT
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) October 18, 2022
“I saw it back on the video… It was quite obvious the player touched the ball from Newcastle and our players took advantage of it.”
The incident was one of many involving match officials being confronted in the top flight at the weekend, with the FA also charging Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp with improper conduct for his outburst at an assistant referee.
Ten Hag said his players are role models for amateurs and youth players but as professionals, they should be allowed to question referees’ decisions.
“We are an example for amateurs, for youth, professional players. We have to know our role and it’s also about professional football,” Ten Hag added. “It is also quite normal you ask why in the moment.
“My view is, quite quickly, you have to accept the referee’s decision and move on.”
Ten Hag added Anthony Martial will not be available to face Tottenham but Christian Eriksen has returned to training and is in contention to feature against his former club.
United are fifth in the league with 16 points from nine games while Spurs are third, level on 23 points with Manchester City after 10 games.