Ten Hag must solve selection puzzle

Saturday 02 March 2024 09:00

Erik ten Hag feels he needs to solve his Manchester United selection puzzle for Sunday's derby with City.

The boss suggested he came up with the right solution in the second half at Nottingham Forest, during our Emirates FA Cup fifth-round win at The City Ground, when Sofyan Amrabat appeared to adopt more of a midfield role and helped the Reds dictate the latter part of the tie.

Although offering no precise details on the tactics employed, and which system he will look to use at the Etihad Stadium, Erik did admit in his club media interview ahead of the weekend that there are issues in defence to deal with.

Pre-match Q&A: Ten Hag on Man City (A) Video

Pre-match Q&A: Ten Hag on Man City (A)

Pre-match Q&A | Erik discusses derby preparations, our away form and Eric Ramsay's departure...

Harry Maguire has been added to a list of absentees in the defensive positions that include Luke Shaw, Lisandro Martinez, Tyrell Malacia and Aaron Wan-Bissaka. This led to Amrabat starting at left-back, with Diogo Dalot on the other flank, and Raphael Varane paired with Victor Lindelof in the middle.

The quartet, in front of Andre Onana, managed to keep a clean sheet in the midweek victory but our resilience will be severely tested by free-scoring City, who hit Luton Town for six in their cup clash.

After indicating his press conference that he is unlikely to have any fresh options available, the boss hinted he will retain the same squad for Sunday's 15:30 GMT kick-off.

When asked if there was a tweak to the system and if it was pleasing to see how it worked out, Ten Hag replied: "Finally, yeah. But also, for Sunday, we have to lay the puzzle because we are still missing full-backs. We are still missing centre-halves.

"So we have to be creative but I think we can. On Wednesday, we showed we can, if we have the right plan.

"But, more important than that, if we have that passion, and that ambition, and desire and determination to win the game, then we are able to do it."

The manager admits the 2-1 loss to Fulham still rankles him, but he was satisfied with the way the team bounced back to progress in the FA Cup and set up a quarter-final date with Liverpool on 17 March.

"Of course, it's annoying," he said. "It still annoys me, that game against Fulham. But it happened and, also, we can't forget what happened before that. From January on, we are in very good form, on a very good run. We bounced back [at Forest] and we have to keep this process going. We're looking forward, great games are coming up - big games and good challenges.

"So the team is really excited about that. I'm excited about going into this game, and also the coming games, but Sunday is very important."