Neville ‘feels sorry for’ Man Utd player with ‘impossible job’ as Ten Hag blames injuries for slow start

Jason Soutar
Man Utd striker Rasmus Hojlund applauds the fans
Man Utd striker Rasmus Hojlund applauds the fans

Manchester United legend Gary Neville says he ‘feels sorry for’ Rasmus Hojlund but Erik ten Hag insists injuries have hindered his debut season at Old Trafford.

Hojlund scored his 10th Premier League goal of the season as Manchester United beat Brighton 2-0 on Sunday.

Man Utd legend Neville explains why he ‘feels sorry’ for Hojlund

It has undoubtedly been a difficult debut season in England for the €73.9million 21-year-old but he has been put in an “impossible” situation, says club legend Neville.

“Watching Hojlund, I felt sorry for him,” Neville said in The Overlap newsletter. “You talk about the difficulty United have had putting out a consistent back four this season. But it’s the same up front.

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“Hojlund doesn’t know what the pattern of play is, whether the wide player is going to go to the line or come inside. You can see he’s making good runs all the time and then the wide man will come back inside and there will be a 15-pass sequence.

“Another time he’ll drop in and try to join in with that and that will inevitably be the time the wide man decides to get to the line and cross it. Until United can establish a consistent pattern of play, being centre forward in that team will be an impossible job.”

Man Utd boss Ten Hag blames injuries for Hojlund’s slow start

While rivals Manchester City were busy being crowned champions for an unprecedented fourth time in a row, United overcame a poor first-half display to avoid setting a new record for the club’s lowest Premier League points tally.

Yet Ten Hag’s men still finished a difficult campaign which brought 14 top-flight defeats with a negative goal difference.

Bruno Fernandes began the match as a false nine before Hojlund made a key impact from the bench.

Hojlund has hit 16 goals across all competitions in his debut season, with Ten Hag hoping that tally increases at Wembley in five days’ time.

“It could always be better but don’t forget he had three injuries this season,” Ten Hag said of the 21-year-old’s contribution.

“He came in with the injury, missed the start, then he got injured before winter and then he got injured after winter.

“So every time that broke his rhythm and if you then shoot 16 goals for the first season it’s OK. And it’s not over, we have to play the FA Cup final.”

Ten Hag: Man Utd fans ‘best in the world’

Following the win over Brighton, under-fire Red Devils boss Ten Hag said his side must “do everything” to repay the “best fans in the world” by lifting the FA Cup this week.

Qualification for Europe next season – and potentially the future of under-fire manager Ten Hag – is now reliant on beating rivals Manchester City in this week’s Wembley final.

The Dutchman thanked United’s supporters for their backing during a difficult period after late goals from Diogo Dalot and substitute Hojlund ruined Roberto De Zerbi’s final match as Seagulls boss.

“We have the best fans in the world and I mean this,” said Ten Hag, whose team have endured an injury-hit season.

“I have never had this experience when you have a season like us, which is by far not good enough, that the supporters are with us.

“They are with us in the bad season and in bad times they are there.

“I think also they know why the bad times are there.

“But we have to pay them back and we have to do everything to give them a trophy next week – but also for the future, we have to perform better.”

Following a series of fitness setbacks among this squad this term, Ten Hag believes he now has a positive selection headache as he contemplates his cup final line-up.

Centre-back Lisandro Martinez made his first start since early February on the south coast, while Raphael Varane returned to action as a substitute following more than six weeks out.

“I would say the manager and the coaching team have luxury problems, which is good,” said Ten Hag.

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