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Erik ten Hag frustrated by 'stupid' crossing to Cristiano Ronaldo by Man Utd as Aston Villa beat them 3-1 at Villa Park

Erik ten Hag described Manchester United's performance in their 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa as 'not acceptable' and questioned the tactics decisions and attitude of his players on a day that Cristiano Ronaldo captained the team for the first time under him

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Erik ten Hag called Manchester United's tactic of crossing from deep for Cristiano Ronaldo "stupid"

Erik ten Hag called Manchester United's tactic of crossing from deep for Cristiano Ronaldo "stupid" as he was left frustrated by his players failing to "follow the rules" in their 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa on Sunday.

Asked if he had encouraged his players to look for the head of the 37-year-old forward to help bring him into the game, Ten Hag replied: "No, I think it was stupid to do that."

He added: "We delivered too quickly crosses in from too far and too forcing. Then, we don't help him. We have to bring in the crosses at the right moment.

"I think in the second half also we bring too quickly the crosses in. The right moment was from Christian Eriksen in the first half and he found the moment in the pocket to deliver the ball to Cristiano at the far post. That was the right moment."

Long before that United had conceded twice, surrendering the initiative to Unai Emery's side in the Spaniard's first game in charge. Bruno Fernandes was badly missed but Ten Hag did not regard that as an excuse for his side's lacklustre performance.

"Bruno Fernandes is an important player but I don't have that feeling. It is about the players who are now on the pitch to win this game. If they do their job 100 per cent, with passion and desire, following the rules and the principles of football, then we win this game.

"When you lose the game at the start of the first half and the start of the second half, when you start games like this, you get beat."

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights of Aston Villa against Manchester United.

Even Lucas Digne's stunning free-kick was not good enough for Ten Hag to defend his players. "I think the free-kick is stoppable because the ball is too far [away from the wall]. OK, it is a small detail but details make a difference in top football.

"It tells everything [about] us. I think that was one of our best standards. We are really front foot, we are really ready to play in all the games up until now. And today we were not. From the start, we didn't follow the rules in defending and we lose our battles.

"Then we score the goal so are back in the game and we were hopeful at half-time that we can turn this around. Everyone went out with that feeling and that attitude but we gave the game away the same as the first half at the start of the second half."

It was far from Ten Hag's first-choice line-up with Donny van de Beek making his first Premier League start of the season. "It is always difficult when you are playing with 10 others. I think it is collectively that we brought a bad performance."

Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford failed to build on his recent good form having been shifted to the right wing in the absence of Antony. Ten Hag acknowledged that it is not his best role.

"Yes, he can play there. If you look at his stats he scores across all the front positions almost equally. But for me, the best position for Rashford is No 9 or coming out from the left. But in our front line we have our problems so for this game it was the best balance."

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Erik ten Hag says that the way his side conceded goals was 'not acceptable' at Aston Villa

Ronaldo was the striker and the captain, wearing the armband for the first time under the Dutchman, though his manager explained he was far from the first choice for that honour.

"Harry Maguire is on the bench, our captain Bruno is not available, then it is about David de Gea. He is a leader but the goalkeeper is far away from the outfield. Casemiro is the leader but Casemiro is not speaking 100 per cent perfect English.

"So Cristiano is a leader, especially he is the leader of the team, so he is the man, it is clear."

The defeat ends a nine-game unbeaten run for United in all competitions, the first setback since the derby defeat in early October. "I am disappointed but I know the process will not go all the way up. Setbacks will come and we have to deal with that," added Ten Hag.

"I am already a long time in football. Human beings are not robots. Sometimes it is the way it is. It is psychological but it is not acceptable, don't get me wrong. We have to be ready every game and not give the game so easily away."

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