Erik ten Hag needs to understand the lesson from Manchester United to compete on all fronts

Man United has a busy schedule this year, but even with the squad’s shortcomings following the summer transfer window, there are always options to make up for a mistake from the previous campaign.

Manchester United’s players fell to the ground after the FA Cup final whistle sounded last season.

It wasn’t the happy ending the Reds had hoped for as they were defeated by their neighbors, who went on to win the treble, and you could be excused for believing there was a bit of tiredness mixed in with the disappointment on that May evening.

If United had advanced to the Europa League final rather of losing in the last eight, their imposing 62 games across four tournaments may have been much greater. The Reds were not the only team with a demanding schedule; West Ham also had a lot going on while competing in Europe and City had one more match to play.

The fact that the fixture list was shortened to accommodate the winter World Cup and teams like United having numerous representatives in Qatar didn’t help. Last season, 13 Reds players started at least 27 games. If Lisandro Martinez hadn’t been hurt, that number would almost certainly have been higher.

Why are there so many injuries at Manchester United?

Ten Hag frequently played his strongest team in cup competitions, a move that paid off with successful long runs in both and a first trophy win by winning the Carabao Cup. The Dutchman, however, can strike a balance.

Bruno Fernandes, Casemiro, Raphael Varane, and Lisandro Martinez didn’t need to start the second leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal because United was already up 3-0. There were other instances where a result may have been achieved through rotation; one such instance was the second leg versus Real Betis.

Ten Hag must have faith in the group he has assembled if United is to bridge the gap to City domestically and compete on the continent upon their return to the Champions League. It’s far from perfect, but it can ease the pressure on the senior stars by giving players like the aforementioned quartet and stalwarts like Marcus Rashford a break and giving more starts to players like Facundo Pellistri and Sergio Reguillon as well as promising young players Amad Diallo, Kobbie Mainoo, Dan Gore, and Hannibal Merjbi.

Not only will it help others grow, but it might also help protect people Ten Hag values most from harm. Bruno being forced into action week in and week out makes it seem like United is playing with fire, and the ferocity with which they want to subdue Ten Hag may result in players breaking down. Some injuries are just the result of poor luck; for example, Mainoo got injured during the preseason despite the Reds’ significant investment in injury prevention measures.

Sir Alex Ferguson was perhaps the maestro of rotation; keeping four top-tier strikers active during the 1999 season was an accomplishment in and of itself. There is a lesson to be learned, even though Ten Hag doesn’t have the team power United did back then.

The Champions League adds a new level of intensity and quality to United’s schedule at a time when the Premier League is probably stronger than it has ever been. Although Ten Hag doesn’t have the squad he wants, he must make the most of the resources he does have.





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