‘I’ve never had my favourite team on the pitch’: Ten Hag defends United tenure

Estimated read time 3 min read

Erik ten Hag does not care how his Manchester United tenure is viewed by the outside world, the manager blaming the constant flow of injuries at the club for only playing a full-strength team once in 106 matches.

Ten Hag is set for a second successive FA Cup semi-final on Sunday when United face the Championship side Coventry at Wembley. United sit seventh in the league with the FA Cup their last chance of securing silverware this season and easing the pressure on him. The Dutchman led United to the final last season but they lost to Manchester City and he is aiming to go one better 12 months later.

“I can’t put any energy into whether I am judged fairly or not,” Ten Hag said when asked if United are criticised more harshly than other clubs. “I know what we are doing here, and I know why I am here – to bring trophies and also to create economic value. So we are working on that.

“In a process you have setbacks and I can see it realistically. I miss that sort of nuance in the comments but I can’t bother about it. I can’t get into the emotions of that. I see it rationally and I am only focusing on my team, to improve my team, to improve individuals. That is why I am here.”

A greater worry for Ten Hag is the number of injuries that have occurred during his reign. Against Coventry, United will be without seven first-team players and Harry Maguire is a doubt, but Scott McTominay and Antony are set to return after missing the draw at Bournemouth.

“I don’t have any concern about what is said on the outside,” Ten Hag said. “What concerns me is that in 18 months I have never had my favourite team on the pitch once, because players were injured – that concerns me. In fact there was only one time, against City at home last season. That is the only time I had a full squad to pick my full team.”

In the starting lineup against City in January 2023, referenced by Ten Hag, were Tyrell Malacia, who has been injured all season, Anthony Martial, who has not featured since 9 December, plus Luke Shaw and Raphaël Varane, who are also currently absent.

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“In all the other games there was an injury aspect that we have had to deal with,” Ten Hag added. “That’s normal in football, but not as many as we have had. And I know that when we’ve had so many injuries in crucial key positions, you can’t deliver the results you want to bring. That’s OK, but that’s my truth – others can have different truths but I can’t put any energy into that.”

Source: theguardian.com

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