Huddersfield Town v Manchester United: Wagner keen to manage expectation levels

HUDDERSFIELD TOWN head coach David Wagner believes today's visit of Manchester United should serve as a timely reminder of just how far the Yorkshire club has come in a short space of time.

Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA
Huddersfield Town manager David Wagner. Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA

After ending their 45-year absence from the top flight with back-to-back victories in August, the Terriers have struggled in recent weeks with their last six Premier League outings having yielded just one goal and three points.

Last weekend’s defeat at Swansea City – coming amid a trio of tough assignments against Tottenham Hotspur, Jose Mourinho’s United and Liverpool – came as a particular blow with Aaron Mooy admitting the mood in the camp earlier this week was “down”.

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Wagner, however, wants supporters and players to take stock of the huge strides taken during what has been an “extraordinary” rise rather than allow any negativity to seep into their thoughts.

“Some people say we are playing the biggest club in the world,” said Wagner, who yesterday rebuffed links with Leicester City’s managerial vacancy by insisting, “I am and will be the manager of this football club.”

“It is such a long time since we last saw Manchester United here in the highest division, so this shows how excited everyone will be. Maybe playing this club is the right time for us to make sure we are totally clear what made us strong in the past and make sure we do not forget where we are and where we came from.

“We should not make (this) one mistake, and I know our supporters will not make (this) one mistake.

“Do not take the extraordinary as ordinary, do not take the unusual as usual.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA

“If we start to expect these things, it will cause big problems. Our clear vision is that we still have no limits, but we do not have expectations that are unrealistic.”

Wagner’s words are an attempt to manage the sense of expectation that rose markedly following those victories over Crystal Palace and Newcastle United inside the opening nine days of the season.

On the back of those two wins and a smattering of decent draws, the lack of goals together with the recent losses to Spurs and Swansea have led to calls from supporters on social media to change the strict 4-2-3-1 formation that Wagner has favoured throughout his near two-year reign at the John Smith’s Stadium.

What the Town chief wants is everyone pulling in the same direction, just as was the case last season as one of the more unlikely promotions of the Premier League era was clinched.

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho. Picture: Peter Byrne/PA

“We need all the excitement in the dressing room and the stands to be at our best,” he added. “If we like to be competitive, this is the first thing for us.

“Our supporters have shown it in the past. I have heard it from a lot of managers after the game, how they think the noise from all four stands lifts us.”

As keen as Wagner is to manage the expectation surrounding Town, he also admits that the Premier League does have a delightful ability to throw up an upset or two – as Crystal Palace proved last weekend by beating champions Chelsea.

“There has also been Burnley’s draw at Liverpool and Burnley beating Chelsea,” added Wagner, who celebrated his 46th birthday on Thursday. “I said it before that the – let’s call them – smaller clubs have to collect some points against the bigger clubs.

“If you collect points against them then this makes your life much easier in the Premier League. We have seen in the past that this is what you have to do as a smaller club over a season. How many (points), no-one knows.”

Town are the first promoted side that the Red Devils have faced this season and Mourinho has urged his players to avoid a repeat of last term’s struggles.

Hull City and Burnley both took a point off the Premier League giants, while Middlesbrough came within five minutes of triumphing at Old Trafford only for quick-fire goals from Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba sealed a scratchy 2-1 win.

“We are silly if we don’t know what is waiting for us,” said the Portuguese when asked about the Terriers. “Unless it is a new player in the Premier League and we have only Victor (Lindelof), everyone knows the Premier League and knows what it means to play against newly promoted teams. It is nothing new.

“Every team in the Premier League is good and thinks that they can win every match against every opponent.

“The players will be buzzing and the supporters will be happy to have a big club playing in their stadium.”

Page 3: Big match preview.