Erik ten Hag has warned it will take "months" to consistently produce the intensity Manchester United need to become a force again.

There was an air of optimism at Old Trafford following four consecutive Premier League wins, but that came to a juddering halt when the Red Devils suffered a chastening 6-3 derby defeat at Manchester City last Sunday.

The champions tore United apart, Erling Haaland and Phil Foden scoring hat-tricks in a rout at the Etihad Stadium.

Ten Hag's side came from behind to win 3-2 at Omonia Nicosia in the Europa League on Thursday and return to top-flight action with a trip to Everton on Sunday.

Dutchman Ten Hag, who left Ajax to take the United hot seat at the end of last season, says it will take time for his side to reach the sort of levels he expects.

"It's more - it's physical, it's mental, it's also sustainability," he said.

"It's like a routine, a way of life and you have to bring it to every training in your system, as a squad and an individual player.

"When you have had a lack of it in the last years, it's not something that you build or progress in a week or a month.

"Now it's a system that has to be [in place]. It is a demand nowadays top football and it's quite clear City is the standard in that. There are more teams, but I think we can deliver that.

"We have seen it against Liverpool and we have seen it against Arsenal, but now we have to do it on a consistent basis, that is what we have to work for now.

"It will not come overnight, it will also take more than weeks - it will take months."

Ten Hag also expects United to be more disciplined and streetwise.

He added: "I know nasty, I know what it is. In that manner we can progress but sometimes also play a little bit smarter. 

"Like we have too many bookings and some players at the start of Premier League, they play tough.

"But I wonder [why] we collect so many bookings and I don't understand, like the first booking [for Diogo Dalot at City] on Sunday, I really don't understand. 

"We want to play tough, we want to keep the game going and then in the second minute already it's a booking for Diogo.

"Also, I saw many other bookings where I think, 'Is that necessary?' I have to keep the reminder to the players to play smart, but they have to play nasty as well."

Raphael Varane could return from an ankle injury at Goodison Park, but Harry Maguire remains sidelined along with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Donny van de Beek.

Gareth Southgate believes England have grown stronger as a result of their poor form ahead of the World Cup, as he pledged to stand firm on his selections.

England suffered a humiliating relegation from the top tier of the Nations League last month, finishing their campaign with three points – and no wins – from six games.

The Three Lions begin their World Cup campaign against Iran on November 21, and their six-match winless run is their longest such sequence going into a major tournament.  

Southgate was jeered by England supporters in the aftermath of a 1-0 defeat to Italy on September 23 and has been criticised for standing by Manchester United's struggling defender Harry Maguire.

Speaking at Monday's Legends of Football event in aid of Nordoff Robbins Music, Southgate accepted criticism of his decisions, but maintained he must sometimes resist "popular appeal".

"I think everybody in the country can see we're trying to accomplish extraordinary things," he said. "To accomplish extraordinary things is incredibly difficult. 

"This is a job where every decision, every selection is questioned, debated, ridiculed. That's just by my postman, by the way!

"Column inches are full, airwaves are filled. As a manager, you're not going to get every decision right.

"But I have to be strong enough to withstand popular appeal for something and do what I really believe gives us the best chance to win. 

"If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, and blaming it on you. If you can trust yourself, when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too. That doubting, that noise that surrounds us is because people care. They're passionate. 

"They just want to win, and I understand that. And if we don't win for six matches, then quite rightly, I have to accept that criticism. 

"That's what goes with our job. If nobody cared or commented, then it wouldn't be the great and incredible challenge that it is."

England failed to score an open-play goal in their first five Nations League games, before coming from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 in last week's thrilling draw with Germany, but Southgate believes the team's poor run could benefit them heading to Qatar.

"Milan was painful. I knew walking over to our fans that it wasn't going to end well. But I wasn't going to take a backward step," Southgate added.

"I've enjoyed the warmth and the adulation, so you've got to ride with the discomfort as well.

"Against Germany, I think we showed what we're capable of, good and bad. It showed there is character there. As a team, I think we'll be better for that challenging period we've just been through.

"You wouldn't choose to go into a World Cup with the run of results we've had, but I actually think we're stronger for that and the players have had to take some ownership. 

"Those moments, like coming back from to 2-0 down and hearing the roof lift off Wembley, are hard to describe."

With England reaching the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and finishing as runners-up at Euro 2020, expectations surrounding the Three Lions have undoubtedly risen.

"In seven weeks' time, I get to lead my country to another World Cup. We have players I'm proud to lead, who give us everything," Southgate said.

"We want to bring people together, create memories and history. I've said before the last two tournaments: if we can make people proud, we'll have had an amazing time.

"I know that the bar of what might be deemed success is raised and getting higher for us. But as a team, we have to focus on performance, and the rest will fall into place.

Harry Maguire will not play for Manchester United against Manchester City due to injury, but Erik ten Hag is confident he can rediscover his best form when he returns.

The United captain has endured a torrid season, losing his place at club level and then performing poorly for England despite Gareth Southgate's backing, with individual errors contributing to Germany's 2-0 lead in Monday's 3-3 Nations League draw.

There have been calls for Maguire to be dropped by Southgate, too, but he first faces a tough task to get past Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez back into Ten Hag's winning United side.

That will not happen in Sunday's derby, as Ten Hag revealed the centre-back was the only fresh injury concern, set to miss the game while Anthony Martial and Premier League Player of the Month Marcus Rashford return.

However, the United manager was quizzed on what he can do to help Maguire get back to his best.

"First of all, I have to coach him," Ten Hag said. "I have to back him, but I back him because I believe in him. In the period I was working with him in pre-season, he was good, I would say really good, training and games.

"But then it's also to do with the good performances of the centre-backs who are playing now.

"I can see qualities. Even after he was not in the team, he trained really well. More importantly, the quality was really there.

"You see his career: he has almost 50 caps for England, already with Leicester and Man United he's performed really well. What you see is high potential.

"Then it's about him. The players in the dressing room, the coaches, the manager, we all believe in him. Now it's about him. That's what I told him. I am sure he can do it, and he will turn around this. I am really convinced of that."

Maguire has been the subject of abuse due to his performances, and while Ten Hag suggested criticism was part of the sport, he recognised a lack of belief was the defender's biggest problem.

"It's an aspect of football. It's an aspect of our work," he said. "We set conditions for that, as a manager, and we also have experts around to help, to coach the players and the team in the right direction.

"I think he is doing quite well, but for every player there is room for improvement. If he believes in his skills, he will be quickly back on the level even more than he did.

"Once again, I'm convinced of that, because I see his capabilities are really high."

Jamie Carragher believes Harry Maguire's England place may now be untenable and thinks the defender must leave Manchester United to recapture his best form.

Maguire started United's first two games of the Premier League season – defeats to Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford – but has been relegated to the bench amid a four-game winning run for Erik ten Hag's men.

Maguire's lack of game-time at Old Trafford led to criticism of Gareth Southgate's decision to select him for England's Nations League ties against Italy and Germany, and the defender did not help his case with two nervous performances.

Having started as the Three Lions were relegated from League A with a meek 1-0 loss in Milan last week, Maguire gave away a penalty in Monday's 3-3 draw with Germany.

On Wednesday, former Liverpool and England defender Carragher said criticism of Maguire's performances was justified, writing in the Telegraph: "Harry Maguire should be angry.

"He should be angry that he has gone from England's best defender at the 2018 World Cup and 2020 Euros, where he was named in the team of the tournament, to being presented as a laughing stock.

"He should be angry that he has gone from a player England fans saw as 'one of their own' when singing his name incessantly during internationals, to someone who some supporters think it justified to boo whenever his name is announced in the stadium.

"He should be angry that he finds himself fighting to justify his place in England's World Cup squad on the back of being left in limbo at Manchester United.

"And he should also be angry when looking at himself and asking; 'how have I allowed it to come to this', when not so long ago he would have been alongside Harry Kane as one of the first names on Gareth Southgate's team sheet.

"No-one deserves the kind of mockery coming Maguire's way. Some of the criticism towards him is that which you would expect directed at bad apples – poor characters who undermine their clubs or teams. 

"Maguire is not that. But strong reactions are inevitable when you become an £80million player. 

"Criticism of his performance against Germany is valid and justified and Southgate must assess if Maguire is mentally right for a World Cup, able to show he can put all the issues behind him. 

"In the past, it is something Maguire has struggled with. How can the manager make such a big call before the opening game against Iran unless Maguire is playing for his club?

"'We've got to pick our best and experienced players unless we're in a situation where it is almost untenable,' Southgate said on Monday night. Unfortunately for Maguire, we may already be at that stage."

With Ten Hag preferring Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez at the heart of a new-look United defence, Carragher thinks the time has come for Maguire to call time on his spell at Old Trafford.

"Too often, it looks as if the weight of the world is on his shoulders, like he is a startled bunny more than the authoritative centre-back he was," Carragher added.

"I think it is too late at club level. I wrote last year he was fighting for his Manchester United career.  He needs this to be his final season at Old Trafford and start afresh. Now it is England's problem.

"When I watched Maguire in the last two games, I felt sorry for him. But that is not a good look for any sports person. Sympathy will not get him back where he was two years ago."

Having failed to win any of their last six matches, England are experiencing their longest winless run going into a major tournament, and their worst patch of form since another sequence of six games without victory in 1993.

England captain Harry Kane was "proud" of Harry Maguire for playing through injury towards the end of Monday's draw with Germany despite it being a nightmare match for the defender.

Centre-back Maguire has become a much-maligned figure at Manchester United, with his performances routinely called into question over the past 12 months or so.

That ultimately led to him being dropped by new manager Erik ten Hag in August after United lost their first two games of the new Premier League season – he has not started since in the top flight and the Red Devils have won four matches on the bounce.

England manager Gareth Southgate backed Maguire at the start of this international window, suggesting he would stake his reputation on the defender's selection before starting him in both Nations League games despite previous vows to pick players on form.

Serie A-winning Milan defender Fikayo Tomori was left out of the squad entirely on Monday while Maguire went on to endure a nightmare, with his individual errors contributing to England finding themselves 2-0 down.

England remarkably fought back to go 3-2 up with three goals in 12 minutes before Kai Havertz's second rescued a point for Germany, and while the focus was already on Maguire – who was later spotted limping through the mixed zone – Kane praised his character.

"Any individual mistake, you're going to be gutted. But we are a team, we will get behind each other," Kane said.

"They [Maguire and goalkeeper Nick Pope] will learn from [their errors] and they'll move on. They have been great for us every time they put the shirt on.

"H [Maguire] had a pretty decent injury there at the end, where he played another five, 10 minutes, on almost one leg.

"Great character from him [to keep playing], I'm really proud of him for that."

After the match, Maguire said sorry to supporters on Instagram following his errors.

The first was a poor pass out from the back that was intercepted by Jamal Musiala, whom he then clumsily fouled in the area. Ilkay Gundogan scored the penalty.

For the second goal, Maguire was robbed of possession – again, Musiala was his nemesis here – up the pitch and Germany sprung a rapid counter-attack that was rounded off by a gorgeous Havertz finish.

"Mistakes are part of the game, I apologise," Maguire wrote.

"Great fightback and spirit to get us back into the game by the lads. Take the positives and look forward to Qatar. The tough times will make us stronger."

Former Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic believes criticism of Harry Maguire has been over the top, likening it to a "disaster".

United made Maguire the most expensive defender of all time when they signed him from Leicester City in 2019 and he quickly established himself as a key player, even becoming captain.

But after a fairly promising first couple of years, Maguire's popularity among supporters has decreased significantly, with the England centre-back's performances routinely questioned last season.

The situation turned particularly ugly in April when Maguire received a bomb threat to his home.

Maguire was dropped by new manager Erik ten Hag after United lost their first two matches of the new Premier League season, but Matic – now at Roma – feels his former colleague has been treated dreadfully by the average fan on social media, suggesting the criticism comes from a place of jealousy.

"What people are doing to him, it is a disaster," Matic told The Times.

"Everything has to have limits and some of these people writing on social media, they don't have their own lives so they just have to write bad things about someone else."

Individual criticism of Maguire over the past year or so has also come against a backdrop of flak aimed at the United team in general, as they slumped to a sixth-placed finish last season with their worst points total (58) in the Premier League era.

Former United captain Roy Keane is among the most vocal television pundits when it comes to analysis of the Red Devils, and he also went on something of a rant about Matic towards the end of his time at Old Trafford.

Shortly after Matic confirmed he was to leave United, Keane took umbrage with the Serbian making such a decision before the end of the season and saying former club Chelsea also still had a place in his heart.

Matic provided a measured response, saying: "I have respect for what he has done but he needs to understand that football has changed.

"If I played for Chelsea, I cannot say I hate them. I cannot be angry when I'm talking to the press after the game.

"The way he behaved on pitch, 70 per cent of it is a red card today. You cannot throw a punch when all the cameras in the world are there.

"The real hero is when you go out on the street and say something, but he was always very nice with me, so what he says in public, to be honest, I don't really care.

"I know what I've done in my career and I'm very happy."

Gareth Southgate is ready to stake his reputation on the continued selection of Harry Maguire, insisting the out-of-favour Manchester United defender remains one of England's most important players. 

Maguire has been dropped to the bench for United's run of four consecutive Premier League victories, having started their back-to-back defeats to open the campaign last month. 

The defender has only started one of United's past five games in all competitions – a 1-0 Europa League loss to Real Sociedad – leading to criticism of Southgate's decision to call him up for England's remaining Nations League fixtures.

But speaking ahead of England's meeting with Italy at San Siro, which is followed by the visit of Germany on Monday, Southgate insisted Maguire remains central to his plans.

"Whatever reputation I have I'm putting it on there," Southgate said. "I think you always have to back your judgement, and we feel he is an important player.

"Clearly, it's not an ideal situation. You want your best players playing regularly so that they're physically in a good place and mentally in a good place. 

"But he is an important player for us. I think it's important to back our best players.

"I haven't felt the need to speak to him any differently to the rest of the players. Look, he understands that he's at a big club, big transfer fee and captain of the club so I think that's why the spotlight has been on him more. 

"But he's focused on training well every day and getting himself back in the [United] team."

While Southgate acknowledges a lack of alternatives contributed to his decision to stand by Maguire, he also highlighted the ball-playing ability of the defender and his partner John Stones.

"If we thought there were experienced players ready to step in and play at a level above, there would be a different consideration and in some positions there would be a different level of competition in that way," Southgate said. "He is our most dominant aerial centre-back.

"Him and John are incredible with the ball really – the amount of pressure they have taken for the team in tournaments we have played because we don't always have that midfield pivot player who can progress the game.

"It means there is a huge amount of pressure on our centre-backs to use the ball well and those two are as good as any in world football at doing that."

England have only lost two of their past 26 matches, both against Hungary in June's Nations League fixtures (W18 D6). 

However, the Three Lions are also winless in their past four games (D2 L2), their longest such run since June 2014 (five), and a defeat to Italy in Milan would condemn Southgate's side to relegation from the Nations League's top tier.

Giorgio Chiellini believes Manchester United "require too much" from Harry Maguire due to the centre-back's hefty price tag.

Maguire has been named among the substitutes for United's past four Premier League games after being dropped by Erik ten Hag.

The England international, who joined United for a record £80million fee for a defender in August 2019, paid the price for defeats to Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford.

While Chiellini does not regard Maguire as being in the same category as legendary United defender Rio Ferdinand, he feels the ex-Leicester City player is unfairly judged.

"I am sad for Maguire's situation because he's a good player," Chiellini, who retired from international duty in April with 117 caps to his name, told The Times.

"They require too much of him. Just because they paid £80m for him, he has to be the best in the world every match? It's not right.

"The value of the market is dependent on many aspects you can't control. It's not your fault. Okay, Maguire maybe is not Rio Ferdinand but he's good enough."

Maguire has played 190 minutes for United across their six matches in all competitions this season, which is only the 13th most of all their players.

Despite his lack of playing time, the centre-back is part of Gareth Southgate's England squad for the upcoming Nations League matches with Italy and Germany.

England's clash with Italy in Milan on Friday is a repeat of the Euro 2020 final, which the Azzurri won 3-2 on penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time.

The Three Lions enter the game out of form, though, having failed to win any of their first four Nations League matches – their longest winless run since June 2014 (five games).

That includes a heavy 4-0 loss to Hungary last time out – their worst home defeat for 94 years – but Italy head coach Roberto Mancini rates Southgate's side highly.

"I think England are one of the best teams in the world. They're full of talent, especially the forwards," said Mancini, whose side played out a 0-0 draw in the reverse fixture.

"They have many players apart from Harry Kane, who is an extraordinary player, but the young players around him can make a difference. So it will be a very hard match for us."

England are bottom of Group A3 ahead of facing Italy, who are three points better off in third despite a heavy 5-2 loss to Germany in their most recent match.

Mancini added: "It's a game we face at a particular moment for us. They are in better shape, but we have the enthusiasm and we can play a good game."

Ivan Toney has been handed his first England call-up ahead of the Nations League fixtures against Italy and Germany this month.

The Brentford striker, who has not been capped by his country at any age level, has scored five Premier League goals this season – a tally only bettered by Erling Haaland (10) and Aleksandar Mitrovic (six).

Only Haaland (11) has been involved in more Premier League goals than Toney (five goals, two assists) so far this term. Toney is also averaging one goal contribution every 77 minutes this season, compared to one every 171 minutes last campaign.

Toney was overlooked by Gareth Southgate for England's Nations League outings in June, with Roma's Tammy Abraham named as back-up for captain Harry Kane.

But all three strikers will meet up with the squad for this month's matches, in which England will bid to avoid a humiliating relegation from Group A3. England play Italy on September 23 in Milan, before tackling Germany at Wembley three days later.

 

Manchester United winger Jadon Sancho has failed to force his way back into contention despite the Red Devils' improved Premier League form, while club-mate Marcus Rashford is absent after struggling with an injury.

United skipper Harry Maguire retains his place despite starting just two of his club's six Premier League games – both of which ended in defeat.

Maguire could be joined at the back by United team-mate Luke Shaw, who is one of four defenders to earn a recall to the 28-man squad, alongside Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ben Chilwell and Eric Dier.

Regular goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is another who is absent through injury, with Nottingham Forest's on-loan shot-stopper Dean Henderson stepping in.

Chelsea's Conor Gallagher and Leicester City's James Justin drop out having featured in June's squad, leaving them with much work to do ahead of the World Cup beginning in November.

England squad: Dean Henderson (Nottingham Forest), Nick Pope (Newcastle United), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal); Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Conor Coady (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Fikayo Tomori (Milan), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City); Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton), Jarrod Bowen (West Ham), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal); Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Tammy Abraham (Roma), Ivan Toney (Brentford).

Eric Bailly has criticised Manchester United for what he perceives to be a bias towards English players following his departure for Marseille.

Bailly was very highly rated when he became Jose Mourinho's first signing at the club in 2016, but he left late last month on a loan deal that could become permanent having only once accumulated more than 21 appearances in a full season.

Injuries undoubtedly played their part in Bailly's struggles, but he was also prone to moments of rashness and the occasional loss of concentration, which did not help his cause.

Seemingly, however, Bailly thinks there were other factors at play as well, claiming there to be a bias towards English players at the club, with his comments interpreted by many as clear criticism of the much-maligned – and now out-of-favour – captain Harry Maguire.

"The club should avoid favouring English players and give everyone a chance," he told the Times.

"[The club should] encourage competition in the dressing room, not just look out for some. I've always had the feeling that the [English] national player was prioritised.

"That doesn't happen at Chelsea or other big Premier League clubs. Some people take it for granted that they are going to start, and that weakens the team.

"Luckily [Erik] ten Hag has a lot of character and I hope he can change that dynamic."

The data certainly suggests United looked to English players more than their rivals over the past six seasons, the period Bailly is referring to.

While Liverpool (33), Tottenham (30) and Arsenal (27) have both seen more English players represent them for at least one minute across all competitions over the period in question than United (26), the Red Devils have given greater prominence to more homegrown players.

Between August 2016 and the end of last season, they had nine English players feature for at least 5,000 minutes across all competitions – none of the other so-called 'big six' have more than six English players that meet the same criteria.

Ten Hag's decision to drop Maguire and Luke Shaw suggests United do now have a manager who is willing to shake things up again, but still Bailly wanted out.

"I played important games and in some I was chosen as the best player. I think when I was given the opportunity I rose to the occasion, I just lacked consistency, because I think I deserved more minutes," he continued. "I've had good times and won titles.

"I met Ten Hag in the dressing room at the end of last season when he went to sign his contract.

"I was packing my things because my intention was to leave, but he told me he wanted me to stay because he was going to give minutes to everyone.

"I agreed to do the [pre-season] tour with United, and he kept his word, but I don't want to play every now and then. I want to do it every week and feel important. I want to get my confidence back."

Manchester United make the trip to Leicester City on Thursday on the back of successive Premier League victories, coinciding with captain Harry Maguire dropping out of the side.

Already under pressure in some quarters following chastening defeats to Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford in his first two games in the job, Erik ten Hag made the bold call to drop his skipper – as well as star forward Cristiano Ronaldo – for the subsequent wins over Liverpool and Southampton.

After claiming six points from six and letting in just one goal across those two matches, compared to six conceded in their first two outings, Ten Hag has no real reason to integrate Maguire back into his starting line-up for the King Power Stadium clash.

With Maguire set for a watching brief from the bench against his former side, Stats Perform looks at what exactly has gone wrong for the England international, and whether there is any way back.


OLD TRAFFORD BECOMES HARRY'S HOUSE

Maguire joined United in an £80million deal from Leicester in August 2019, a fee that remains the most ever paid for a defender. With that valuation comes pressure, yet the centre-back thrived in his new surroundings and was named captain the following January following Ashley Young's move to Inter.

The 29-year-old played the full 90 minutes in each of his first 71 Premier League matches, equalling Gary Pallister's club record, though he could not quite surpass him as he was substituted in the following game against Aston Villa with a minor injury.

Put simply, Maguire was a guaranteed starter and often repaid that faith, reflected in his stats across those first two campaigns. 

Between the start of the 2019-20 season and the end of 2020-21, Maguire ranked second for interceptions (132), second for duels won (443), second for successful passes (4,127) and fourth for recoveries (436) among all Premier League defenders.

THE CAPTAIN OF A SINKING SHIP

Last season was a difficult one for United and by extension Maguire, who as captain had to front up to the club's issues. The Red Devils finished with their lowest-ever Premier League points tally (58) and failed to record a positive goal difference for the first time in over 30 years.

The 57 goals United scored last season was massively down on each of Maguire's first two campaigns at Old Trafford, but even more alarmingly, they shipped a whopping 57 goals across their 38 matches – the most they have let in in a single season in 43 years.

From being towards the top of several metrics in the two campaigns prior, Maguire was nowhere to be seen in the 2021-22 campaign. The Englishman's cause was not helped by missing eight matches, though even on a per-game basis his figures dipped in a number of key areas.

The number of goals conceded per 90 minutes went from 0.95 in his first season to 1.47 last time out; recoveries dropped from 6.2 to 5.3; duels won from 6.3 to 4.7; and successful passes from 57 on average to 48.

TEN HAG'S BIG CALL

Maguire has always had his critics, but the criticism aimed his way has become much louder over the past 12 months. While everyone is entitled to their opinion, the abuse went too far in April this year when Maguire received a bomb threat at his house.

The defender's hopes of winning over the fanbase were hit by disappointing displays in United's opening two games of the current campaign, coinciding with new recruit Lisandro Martinez being integrated into the team as the left-sided centre-back.

It had become clear that change of some sort was required, and Ten Hag made a huge call prior to the Liverpool match in replacing Maguire with Raphael Varane, and it is likely that the pairing will now be given a run in the side to strengthen their partnership.

There were plenty of positives to see against Liverpool, a game in which the Red Devils kept one of the most formidable attacks relatively quiet until Mohamed Salah's 81st-minute consolation, and also against Southampton, when keeping just a second clean sheet in 15 league outings.

FINDING A BETTER BALANCE

But are United a better side without Maguire in their back-line? In the 12 league matches they have started without him since the start of last season, they have won just four for a win percentage of 33.3 per cent, compared to 46.7 per cent with him in the side across 30 games.

In terms of goals against, however, United concede 1.6 compared to 1.3 with and without Maguire respectively. Ten Hag would not just have been looking at the goals conceded column when electing to leave Maguire out of his side, of course, with plenty of other factors to take into equation.

One of the reasons Martinez was signed is because of his ability on the ball, reflected in his 92.5 passes per 90 minutes in Eredivisie last season, with an 89 per cent pass-accuracy rate.

By comparison, Maguire averaged 56 passes a match in the Premier League and found his target 86 per cent of the time. It is not entirely fair to compare figures across divisions, though Maguire also lagged behind team-mate Varane (88 per cent) in terms of passing accuracy. 

NO GUARANTEES GIVEN BY TEN HAG

Ironically, the timing of Maguire being dropped coincides with the team finally signing the defensive midfielder they have been crying out for in recent years, with Casemiro bringing ample experience from his time at Real Madrid.

Ultimately, Ten Hag has to find the right balance and has landed on Varane and Martinez to help keep out the opposition and build from the back, with Casemiro operating just in front of the defence.

Just two months on from confirming Maguire would remain skipper, the Dutchman has suggested the former Leicester man will have to bide his time before being called upon again.

"It doesn't mean when you are captain you are established to always play," he said. "Especially when you also have Varane in your squad. We have options. Varane: his stature is immense and in pre-season we took a decision to build him physically so he had a bit of a slow start.

"He was fit in the first games but in the first period of pre-season he wasn't always so we are happy we built him in that way."

If Ten Hag's arrival was supposed to provide Maguire with an opportunity to kickstart his Old Trafford career and return to the previous form shown with United and England, instead it has left him at something of a crossroads amid talk of a possible move away.

Back at the ground where he truly made a name for himself, Maguire must watch on and wonder when – or if – he will get another chance to prove he has what it takes to play a part under Ten Hag.

Captain Harry Maguire will be made to work for his place in the Manchester United XI as just "one of" the team's leaders, according to manager Erik ten Hag.

Maguire has been the United captain since January 2020, having been one of the first names on the teamsheet for much of his time at Old Trafford.

But that is no longer the case after a tough start to the season, failing to impress in defeats to Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford.

Maguire played alongside new signing Lisandro Martinez in those defeats, with his team-mate also coming in for criticism.

However, Martinez stood out against Liverpool on Monday as he kept his place at Maguire's expense, with Raphael Varane brought in.

Ten Hag appears to determined to keep faith with Martinez, and for now Varane is ahead of Maguire in the pecking order, too.

"I think it doesn't mean when you are captain you are established to play always, especially when you also have Varane in your squad," Ten Hag explained.

"We have a leader group and Harry is one of them. Bruno [Fernandes] is one of them.

"Bruno did quite well as captain [against Liverpool]. He led by example and he brings so much energy to the team in and out of possession."

Maguire will get his opportunities, though, with United involved in four competitions in a season that will be disrupted by the World Cup break.

"We have options," Ten Hag said "Varane, his stature is immense, and in pre-season we took a decision to build him physically, so he had a bit of a slow start.

"His profile, his stature and what he won already in the past shows he can really contribute to his team. For the team, there is competition, and we need that. We have to cover so many games.

"Victor Lindelof did really well in pre-season, so I am happy that he will be back in the squad, so we will have another option.

"We have competition internally, and that's good. That is what top teams need."

Manchester United players must be prepared to continue to "suffer" if they are to maximise their potential this season after beating Liverpool, according to manager Erik ten Hag.

United stunned their bitter rivals as they claimed a hard-fought 2-1 win at Old Trafford on Monday, with the result made even more surprising by the manner of the defeats in their two previous games.

The Red Devils began Ten Hag's tenure with back-to-back losses to Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford, the latter of whom ran out emphatic 4-0 winners in London.

Ten Hag dropped Harry Maguire, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luke Shaw from his starting XI for the visit of Liverpool, with their respective replacements –  Raphael Varane, Anthony Elanga and Tyrell Malacia –  all acquitting themselves well in what was United's first league win over the Reds since 2018.

The collective attitude of the United team attracted widespread praise due to their defensive work rate – their 232 pressures applied to an opposition player on the ball was the third-highest in the Premier League this season.

But the key for United now is to ensure Monday was not just a flash in the pan, and for them to have sustained success in building towards their objectives, Ten Hag is warning the team they have to be willing to run themselves into the ground.

"What I demand is that players bring the top spirit every day. Every day, they have to bring it to the club," Ten Hag told United's official website on Tuesday.

"It has to be a way of life and I hope they understand. It's only working – high performance, high level – if you have that spirit and have that focus.

"If you accept that you have to hurt yourself, you have to suffer, to finally get the best level out of you."

Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford got United's goals on Monday, with the two England internationals generally looking lively as their movement and pace caused Liverpool's defence issues.

Both endured disappointing seasons last term, with Sancho netting only three Premier League goals and Rashford getting four.

Indeed, Rashford's strike against Liverpool ended a run of 997 minutes without a goal in all competitions for United since netting against West Ham in January.

Clearly, however, Ten Hag thinks they could both be crucial to United.

"I'm convinced they can be really a threat, really a weapon against every opponent," Ten Hag continued.

"As long as their focus and energy is there with them, it is very difficult to stop them.

"So it's about the team getting them in the right situation and also about themselves, with the right approach, right focus in the game and battling, defending, pressing. But also dribbles and combinations and runs in behind."

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag lauded his players' "attitude" and "fighting spirit" after their much-needed 2-1 victory over Liverpool.

Goals from Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were enough to hold off United's bitter rivals and earn their first points of the Premier League season, despite an 81st-minute Mohamed Salah header causing a few late nerves.

Victory lifts United above Liverpool in the primitive league table, with the Reds still winless.

United had been the side under more pressure heading into the match following a 4-0 reverse at Brentford last week, but Ten Hag masterminded an impressive turnaround – one he attributed to his team's approach to the game.

"We can talk about tactical, but it's all about attitude," Ten Hag told Sky Sports.

"Now you see we bring attitude on the pitch; there was communication, there was fighting spirit. You see what they can achieve.

"I wanted a different approach, I wanted a different attitude, and that is what they bring on the pitch. That is what makes me satisfied, but it is only the start. We have to keep humble, and I think we can play much better if we have a little more composure, give an extra pass. 

"We have to act and make sure you are a team and battle, and also be brave. Give each other options when we have the ball, so it’s not only about spirit."

A perceived lack of effort – seemingly proven by tracking data that showed Brentford had outrun United – was a chief concern for Ten Hag's side, so the manager was questioned about their improvement in that regard.

"I was happy with it, but you have to bring it every game, not only one game," he replied.

"Of course, we are happy; I know the rivalry against Liverpool. But don't only bring it against Liverpool.

"Every Premier League game is difficult, so you have to bring it in every game, this organisation and this intensity, and it starts again with spirit."

Ten Hag made the decision to leave last season's top goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo and captain Harry Maguire out of the starting line-up, but he assured they would be back in the fold in upcoming games.

"I have decisions to make. I have a squad, and we have to use the squad," Ten Hag added.

"We will play 50, 60 games, so game-to-game we will see what team we have to pick. I don't have to mention Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo, they are amazing players and they will play a role in future."

Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Maguire were both dropped by Erik ten Hag for Manchester United's crucial Premier League derby with Liverpool on Monday.

Veteran forward Ronaldo and club captain Maguire started on the bench against Jurgen Klopp's Reds at Old Trafford, as the Dutchman looked to stimulate his side following a pair of dismal performances to start the campaign.

Ronaldo, arguably United's brightest spark during a turgid 2021-22 campaign, has failed to find the net this term in the wake of a disrupted pre-season that saw him sit out the club's tour of Asia and Australia.

The Portugal international has reportedly been seeking an exit from the club to play Champions League football, though with just over a week until the transfer window shuts, it appears likely he will remain.

Maguire, frequently a scapegoat for the club's struggles last term following a superb 2020-21 season and Euro 2020 performance for England, has meanwhile looked shaky at the back, with United shipping six goals in their first two games.

A home loss to Brighton and Hove Albion was followed by a 4-0 rout at the hands of Brentford, and Ten Hag sought to make corrective action for one of his side's biggest games of the season.

Ten Hag made four changes in total, with Luke Shaw and Fred also dropping out, while Tyrell Malacia, Scott McTominay, Antony Elanga and Raphael Varane were recalled.

Liverpool made three alterations for the trip to Old Trafford, meanwhile, with fit-again Roberto Firmino joining Joe Gomez and captain Jordan Henderson in the XI. Nat Phillips and Fabinho dropped out, while Darwin Nunez served the first of a three-match ban.

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