BANGKOK: New Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag oversaw a 4-0 win over archrival Liverpool on Tuesday in his first game in charge as European pre-season friendlies returned to Asia after a two-year break.
The Dutch coach was quick to downplay the significance of the result, however, against a Liverpool side that made a total of 21 substitutions.
“I think our team played brave, played proactive. We have to work really hard to cut out the mistakes but of course we are happy with the first game. I know we have good players,” Ten Hag told the club’s in-house TV channel. “They were not in their strongest so we have to not overestimate this result. ... But, still, I have seen some really good things and I think what you see is we have a lot of creativity and speed up front, so we have potential.”
More than 50,000 fans packed into Bangkok’s iconic Rajamangala Stadium for a first chance to see Premier League stars since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Top European teams have been coming to Asia for preseason tours for decades — this was Liverpool’s seventh visit to Bangkok — but those trips were called off in 2020 and 2021.
Jadon Sancho, Fred and Anthony Martial scored in the first half for United, while Facundo Pellistri added a late fourth in reversal of last season’s results when Liverpool beat their northwest rival 5-0 and 4-0 in the Premier League.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp wasn’t bothered by the result, having left stars such as Mohamed Salah and Virgil van Dijk on the bench at the start of the game.
“The game obviously came a bit too early for us, for a few of our players.,” Klopp said. “You can see that as well. Mistakes happen in football. We could have scored I think three or four in the last five minutes but didn’t and that was our fault.”
Ten Hag made 11 changes during the game as both coaches spread the minutes around.
While the Thai fans were happy to see the return of the Premier League giants, many were unhappy about the ticket prices. In a country where the annual GDP per capita in 2021 was $7,233, according to the World Bank, the cheapest tickets to the friendly game were $138.
“Of course, it is very expensive for Thai people and most can’t afford the ticket prices,” Kittisak Chumpon, a Bangkok-based Manchester United fan, told The Associated Press. “It is, however, a very rare opportunity to see these two clubs play each other and it is still cheaper than going to England to watch them.”
United next head to Australia to face local team Melbourne Victory as well as Premier League rivals Crystal Palace and Aston Villa. Crystal Palace are also the next opposition for Liverpool. The two teams meet in Singapore on Friday with the cheapest tickets costing around $105.
“It’s tough … we were not on tours for a long time, so we do it now and from here to Singapore,” Klopp said. “Then on Saturday we already go home again, so that’s fine. So far, it’s really OK apart from the result. Everything is, so far, OK. The welcome here was fantastic and I am pretty sure in Singapore it will be similar.”