'Looking a cow in the ass' – Ten Hag guided by Dutch idiom as Man Utd boss reveals how he spared star man a red card

By Sports Desk April 14, 2023

Erik ten Hag told Manchester United to "look in the mirror" and cut out their costly errors as he deployed a Dutch idiom to explain how he saved Bruno Fernandes from a costly Europa League red card.

The United manager threw his support behind Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof, who could both get a run in the team after injuries to Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane blighted Thursday's 2-2 draw with Sevilla at Old Trafford.

He also said it was too soon to gauge the severity of those injuries, even though he has his private suspicions.

Ten Hag then brought a touch of levity to a routine pre-match press conference, ahead of Sunday's trip to Nottingham Forest, when he explained why he substituted playmaker Fernandes against Sevilla.

The Dutch boss suspected his Portuguese star was at risk of being sent off, having thrown the ball away after already being booked, and he guessed any further indiscipline would see the key man ordered off.

"I don't want to take a risk. Where I come from, they call it 'looking a cow in the ass'. We call it that in my region of the Netherlands," Ten Hag said.

United were 2-0 up at the time of the substitution, with Christian Eriksen taking over from Fernandes.

Late own goals from Tyrell Malacia and Maguire scuppered hopes of victory in the first leg of the quarter-final, however, after Marcel Sabitzer's early double had put United in control.

"We had back luck definitely with injuries and the goals," Ten Hag said. "But you can avoid it, and we had to avoid it, so we also have to look in the mirror."

Asked about the injuries, Ten Hag could not specify how long Martinez and Varane may face on the sidelines. Reports Martinez may have a broken metatarsal were brushed aside but not denied.

Ten Hag said: "I don't have a complete diagnosis, so I can't say in this moment. When we have news we will give it straight to you.

"But let's do the medical, do their assessment and get a complete diagnosis, and then we will give the news. But I think it doesn't change in this moment. I have an idea, but I don't go with speculation."

He wants Maguire and Lindelof to prove their value to the team, although Maguire must miss next week's FA Cup semi-final against Brighton and Hove Albion due to suspension.

Ten Hag said he had "a lot" of faith in both defenders, who have faced criticism in the past, saying: "They are decent centre-halves. We have four or five very good centre-halves who can do the job."

What Ten Hag would have no time for is anyone who might see it as a big demand to come into the first team from out in the cold.

"I think then you're finding excuses and when you want to find excuses or set excuses then you don't have to play at Man United and you have to look for another club," Ten Hag said. "You have to wait for your moment and when your moment is there you have to contribute and to bring your performance, this is what we demand."

Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw, both absent against Sevilla, could be back on duty at the City Ground this weekend.

French forward Anthony Martial will also be involved but is unlikely to play 90 minutes as United manage his fitness after a recent hip problem.

"Maybe he can, but it's a risk," said Ten Hag, "and we can't take that risk at this moment because we don't have so many options in the front line with [Marcus] Rashford and [Alejandro] Garnacho injured, so we have to be careful."

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