EPL

Erik ten Hag confident Man Utd can ‘change the story’ when back to full strength

By Sports Desk December 22, 2023

Erik ten Hag believes Manchester United can “change the story” of their season once key players return from injury.

This has been a bumpy second campaign in the Old Trafford dugout for the Dutchman, whose side have been eliminated from Europe and seen their Carabao Cup defence ended early.

United’s Premier League title chances are all but over before Christmas and Ten Hag’s side need to build on last weekend’s dogged 0-0 draw at rivals Liverpool when they head to West Ham.

The absentee-hit Red Devils are dealing with several doubts ahead of the Saturday lunchtime clash, but Ten Hag expects their injury problems to ease over the coming weeks.

“Now we have some doubts,” the United manager said.

“We have some illnesses during the week, so we have to see who is available for tomorrow. Hopefully they are recovered but we have to see.

“(Casemiro and Lisandro Martinez) are not available before Christmas, so that will be mid-January we expect them back.

“Mason Mount similar into January. Harry Maguire I expect him early on and Victor Lindelof is not available.”

United confirmed that Lindelof has undergone surgery on a minor groin issue and is set to be out for just over a month.

The impending return of such players will be a shot in the arm for a United side deprived of so many options in recent weeks and months.

The spate of injuries has raised eyebrows and has reportedly led to head of sports medicine Gary O’Driscoll heading an internal review of the medical department.

“We did research here about it but there are so many factors in that you can’t point at one factor,” Ten Hag said.

“But in this moment, what is most important is that we have to deal with it.

“And we have to work to get the players back as soon as possible because we know we have a strong squad in the moment we have everyone on board.”

Ten Hag says “bad luck” has been a factor as the United boss mentioned problems at centre-back, left-back and right wing along with the absence of “huge impact player” Casemiro in midfield.

“You have to deal with that, but everyone understands that when such key players are not available it will have a negative effect on the results,” the Dutchman said.

“Still, we are in a place (where) we can change the story, we can change the season, so I am confident when the players are back we will have a good and strong squad.”

United’s squad has been stretched, with illness meaning Anthony Martial missed the previous two matches while Marcus Rashford was absent in their Champions League exit against Bayern Munich.

The England forward was able to return to the bench at Liverpool and is now fighting for a starting berth, having mustered just two club goals after plundering 30 last term.

Rashford’s struggles in front of goal has been compounded by summer signing Rasmus Hojlund failing to open his Premier League account despite scoring five in the Champions League.

“I’m always very supportive to players and I know, especially front players, a keeper, they need more trust, support from the manager,” Ten Hag said.

“I have a strong belief in Hojlund and in Rashford that they are capable of scoring a lot of goals.

“We have to work as a group, as a team, on our attacking game, but they are capable of scoring a lot of goals.”

Asked if he has seen right response from Rashford in training, Ten Hag said: “He’s training well.

“It can always be better, but I think he’s such an experienced player. He’s mid-20s but he’s a very experienced player.

“He knows how football works, how top football works, so he knows he has to take the responsibility and I’m sure he will do (that) so he will line up himself.”

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