Ten Hag explains Garnacho start
Erik ten Hag has made four changes to the team on duty at Chelsea, as Manchester United welcome Sheriff Tiraspol to Old Trafford this evening.
The Reds need only a point to secure qualification for the next phase of the competition, but still have designs on toppling leaders Real Sociedad and avoiding a side that has dropped out of the Champions League in the play-offs in 2023.
The boss has fielded a strong line-up, with Victor Lindelof replacing injured centre-back Raphael Varane, and Tyrell Malacia in for left-back Luke Shaw. Teenager Alejandro Garnacho makes his maiden start, with Cristiano Ronaldo also back to spearhead the attack, with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho dropping to the bench.
Fit-again Harry Maguire and Donny van de Beek are also among the substitutes.
Erik: Garnacho deserves his opportunity
Ten Hag explains why he's selected Garnacho and shares his delight at the return from injury of two Reds...
When asked by MUTV if Garnacho has impressed in training, Ten Hag replied: "Yes, that is why he gets the opportunity. He deserves it. He has some X factor, like runs in behind, like dribbles, like finishing. I'm really wondering and hope he can do it tonight. Then we have a front three with Cristiano and Antony, all have opportunities, they have the skills, to run behind, to create, to have dribbles, to have combinations in tight areas. It's what we expect from them; they create opportunities and create goals."
The manager was clear it was not a case of the 18-year-old learning from the experience of starting alongside Ronaldo.
"Ah but this pitch is not for learning," he stated. "This pitch is that they have to deliver and they have to be aware of that. So it's not that I put him up for a learning moment. He has the capabilities to show it."
Maguire and van de Beek's return also gives the squad a boost during this hectic pre-World Cup period.
"We have six games coming up in two weeks and we need them all," Erik added. "You see Varane, he fell out, and we need the centre-half position so I'm really happy Harry is on the way back. Also, in front, with Donny, he can score goals and also, in that department, I am happy he is back. Both are needed. We need to keep clean sheets, stability and consistency in the back and also, a more important part, we have to improve in the attacking part, to score more goals."
"We want to win. We have to win. It's about winning the game."
United: De Gea; Dalot, Lindelof, Martinez, Malacia; Casemiro, Eriksen; Antony, Fernandes (c), Garnacho; Ronaldo.
Substitutes: Dubravka, Heaton, Maguire, Shaw, Fred, Iqbal, McTominay, van de Beek, Elanga, Pellistri, Rashford, Sancho.