Erik ten Hag Faces Intense Competition as Seven Players Vie for Two Manchester United Starting Spots

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Erik ten Hag Faces Intense Competition as Seven Players Vie for Two Manchester United Starting Spots

One of the notable consistencies for Manchester United in their inaugural season under Erik ten Hag was the impressive quality of their starting line-ups.

Irrespective of the competition or the opponent, the United manager consistently fielded a star-studded lineup filled with renowned players. This highlighted the Dutch manager’s strong desire to win and his mission to instill a winning mindset within the club.

Nevertheless, there were a few instances where it was widely believed that Ten Hag could have opted to rotate his squad.

For instance, in the fourth round of the FA Cup, United secured a 3-1 victory over Reading.

On that day, the United team consisted of prominent names such as Casemiro, who scored twice, Christian Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford, and Antony.

There was a widespread belief that Ten Hag should have rested some of his experienced key players and given opportunities to the less utilized members of the squad.

However, this approach did not align with the Dutch manager’s style. In retrospect, Ten Hag has indicated that the absence of quality options on the bench played a role in his decision not to field a “weakened team” at any point throughout the season.

Additionally, he can also cite the occurrence of injuries to players such as Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez, Scott McTominay, Anthony Martial, and Christian Eriksen at various stages as a contributing factor.

“We have to acknowledge that, especially in the frontline, we had problems during the whole season because we just didn’t have the numbers there,” said Ten Hag, speaking in April. “If the squad is so strong that you have in every position double the same quality, then it’s good.”

If Ten Hag intends to address the need for increased squad depth and quality, he would hope that the club’s hierarchy responds with fresh investments. However, alongside strengthening the overall squad, he should also consider trimming the number of players in a specific area.

Currently, Manchester United’s squad is overflowing with recognized wingers. With Amad returning from his loan spell at Sunderland, the count reaches seven players in that position.

This count does not even include Fernandes, who started the FA Cup final as a wide player. Regardless of whether Fernandes is considered a winger or not, having seven players competing for two starting positions is not practical or sustainable

At present, Erik ten Hag’s preferred choices for the right and left winger positions are Antony and Marcus Rashford respectively. Following them in the pecking order are Jadon Sancho and Alejandro Garnacho.

Additionally, Facundo Pellistri and Antony Elanga are striving to make their mark and secure a higher position within the hierarchy. Furthermore, Amad is another player who will be seeking an opportunity to impress and compete for a place in the starting lineup.

The situation at Manchester United is such that it is not feasible or sustainable for them to retain all seven wingers this summer. It would be extremely challenging for Erik ten Hag to keep all of them content and satisfied with their playing time. While each player deserves regular game time, it may not be possible for them to receive it at Old Trafford.

Among the current wingers, Marcus Rashford, Alejandro Garnacho, and Antony are expected to be integral parts of Ten Hag’s plans for the upcoming season. However, there is uncertainty surrounding the futures of Jadon Sancho, Antony Elanga, Facundo Pellistri, and even Amad.

Reports from the Manchester Evening News in March indicated that the club is considering allowing two wide players to leave on loan during the summer, with Pellistri being one of them. As a result, there could be potential loan moves for some of these players to provide them with the opportunity for regular playing time elsewhere.

It is unlikely for either Antony or Elanga to suddenly surpass their respective positions in the pecking order. Although Elanga showed promise under Ralf Rangnick in the second half of the 2021/22 season, his progress seemed to have stalled in the current season. While both players have potential, it may be beneficial for their careers and squad balance if they were to be considered as potential candidates to be moved out of the squad.

Reducing the number of wide options to five would provide a healthier and more balanced squad. Antony and Amad are more suited to the right flank, while Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho are better suited to the left.

Jadon Sancho, on the other hand, is capable of playing on either flank. However, the future of Sancho remains uncertain after a challenging season.

Whether Manchester United decides to sell or loan players, it is necessary to decrease the number of wide options by two to achieve a more optimal balance within the squad.

Erik ten Hag Faces Intense Competition as Seven Players Vie for Two Manchester United Starting Spots

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