Man United’s Ten Hag: I’ve never had my 1st-choice team available

Erik ten Hag has dismissed criticism of his performance as Manchester United manager, saying he has never had his first-choice team available to him since taking over in the summer of 2022.

Man United are preparing for Sunday’s FA Cup semifinal against second-tier Coventry City knowing the competition represents the club’s last chance of ending the season with a trophy. The 12-time FA Cup winners are languishing in seventh place in the Premier League, 13 points behind fourth-place Aston Villa and almost certainly out of the running for a place in next season’s Champions League.

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“I don’t have any concern [about what is said on the outside],” Ten Hag said at a news conference ahead of Sunday’s clash at Wembley. “What concerns me is that in 18 months I have never had my favourite team on the pitch, that concerns me, because players are injured.

“One time, against City at home last season — that is the only time I had a full squad where I can pick my team. In all the other games always there was an injury aspect we have to deal with. That is normal in football but not so many as we have had, and I know when you have so many injuries as we have had in crucial key positions you can’t deliver the results you want to bring.

“That is my truth, others can have a different truth but I can’t put energy in that.”

Ten Hag is set to be without six first-team players at Wembley, though expects to have Antony and Scott McTominay back and is hopeful about the fitness of defender Harry Maguire.

But with an overhaul of the club’s football operations underway following the confirmation of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s minority investment, there has been consistent speculation over Ten Hag’s future.

On Friday, United confirmed the appointment of Jason Wilcox as technical director. The former Southampton director of football will report to the club’s new sporting director, set to be Dan Ashworth. Ashworth is currently on gardening leave from Newcastle United but sources have told ESPN that an appointment will be made “in due course.”

“I don’t put energy into this, if I’m judged fairly or not,” Ten Hag said.

“I know what we are doing here, I know why I am here — to bring trophies and also to create economic value.

“So we are working on those and in the process you have setbacks. And I look at this and I can see it realistically. And I see the nuance and I miss that in the comments. But I can’t bother about it, I can’t go into emotions.

“I see it realistic, I see it rational and I am only focusing on my team, to improve my team, to improve the individuals and that’s what I’m here for.”