Ten Hag backs Martial for Manchester United: ‘When he is fit, we play better’ | Manchester United

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Ten Hag backs Martial for Manchester United: ‘When he is fit, we play better’ | Manchester United

Manchester United

  • Striker made his first start since January against Sevilla
  • Manager wants Frenchman to stay despite fitness fears

Erik ten Hag has admitted Anthony Martial’s poor injury record means it is difficult to rely on him as a frontline player, though the manager is insistent the striker has a future at Manchester United beyond this season.

The Frenchman’s start in Thursday’s 2-2 draw with Sevilla was his first since mid-January and was only an eighth appearance of 2023. Martial was taken off against the Spaniards, meaning he has not completed 90 minutes since September 2021, though he was loaned to Sevilla for the second half of last season.

Ten Hag was asked if Martial can be trusted to be regularly available. “It’s difficult to say because the history says different,” said the manager of the 27-year-old’s injury record. “I want him to be because he’s a great player – he definitely has the qualities to play in top football – and when he is fit our team plays better.

“I think he can play across the front. For me, he’s best at centre-forward, but he can play in the wide position as well.”

Ten Hag’s No 1 transfer target in the summer is an elite centre-forward, which adds further doubt over Martial’s long-term United career. But the Dutchman has said he wants Martial to stay at Old Trafford.

United led Sevilla 2-0 but in the closing minutes of the Europa League quarter-final first leg capitulated via own goals from Tyrell Malacia and Harry Maguire. Ten Hag conceded a lack of leadership was a factor.

“It is true that we have to face that, but I can’t tell only negatives,” he said. “We played quite good football over a long time in the game, but you have to manage the game.

“If you want to win trophies you have to be smart. You have to stick to the plan and not allow an opponent to get back in the game, like where we allowed them to get crosses in for the goals.

“They have to be aware that a game is over 95 or so minutes and, yes, we still have a way to go. I am fully aware of it. The team has to know. We need leaders in such moments. In many games I have seen it.

“We have that passion and desire to bring tough games over the line, but against Sevilla we didn’t. I see it as a momentum but the team can definitely learn from it. Yes, we will give the team that idea. We will talk about it and how we can avoid that in the future.”

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