Ten Hag expects Man Utd to improve when two key stars ‘fit and in good combative shape’

Date published: Wednesday 19th October 2022 9:40 - Will Ford

Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag watches his players

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag believes his side’s results will improve when two of his star players are “fit and in a good combative shape”.

United’s performances and results have picked up since they started the season with back-to-back defeats to Brentford and Brighton, with them winning five of their last seven games, including victories over Arsenal and Liverpool.

Goalscoring has been an issue for Ten Hag’s side, who have managed just 13 goals in nine games, and that problem was evident in the 0-0 draw with Newcastle on Sunday, during which they missed a number of good chances to win the game.

And Ten Hag believes they may well be in a better position had Cristiano Ronaldo and Anthony Martial been fit to start the season, and expects results to improve when they are both in good physical condition.

Asked if he could have expected any better at this stage considering circumstances, Ten Hag said: “I think that’s a good question.

“There are obviously many problems. We have to integrate many players, we still have to deal with some problems offensively.

“From the start, Cristiano Ronaldo was unavailable. Anthony Martial was not on the pitch. I think he didn’t play one full game until now. I’m sure when that will be better (as) your two number nines are not there.

“When they will be present, fit and in a good combative shape, then I think the results from the team will improve.”

Ronaldo was visibly frustrated at being withdrawn in the draw with Newcastle, leading to suggestions that the Portuguese superstar is being “disrespected”, but Ten Hag insisted it was the right decision.

“We have to cover four games in ten days. I want to keep the strikers fresh. We have to rotate there. Rashy didn’t have energy for the whole game so we have to plan it,” the Dutchman said.

“I thought Rashy had an impact and if he scored the goal, we would have done everything right. The performance was good, a clean sheet, we pressed well, we controlled the game and in stages we were good on the ball – especially in the second half.

“Then, we dictated the game and in the end we could – we should – have scored the winning goal. One from Fred, and then [Marcus] Rashford had to score. In the end we could have got the win, we deserved the win.

“It is a big compliment to the team that we deserved this with a physical performance against one of the most physical teams in the league. They [Newcastle players] all had cramp and we kept going. The team understands from front to back we cooperate together. We are hard to beat and we must keep that going.”

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