Ten Hag keen to find the right balance

Thursday 16 May 2024 11:45

Erik ten Hag appreciates he has a selection dilemma when it comes to Manchester United's final two games of the season.

The Reds are at Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday (16:00 BST), knowing that we need to better Newcastle United's result at Brentford if we are to finish above the Magpies and guarantee European football next term.

The following Saturday, 25 May, the second all-Manchester Emirates FA Cup final in successive years will present an opportunity to not only get our hands on some silverware but also clinch a Europa League place.

Of course, there is the prospect, depending what happens on the Premier League's last day, that we could also prevent City from doing the Double.

Watch Ten Hag's press conference Video

Watch Ten Hag's press conference

Erik was asked about fans, Amrabat, Bruno and more in his media briefing after Newcastle's visit to Old Trafford...

United's injury problems are well documented but Lisandro Martinez and Marcus Rashford made their return in the 3-2 win over Newcastle on Wednesday, both entering the fray as second-half substitutes.

Raphael Varane is hoping to be available for the weekend game, as he approaches the end of his time at Old Trafford, while we await updates on Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw.

Anthony Martial, given a great reception by the fans after the midweek match, is another who has been out for a while and time is running out before the campaign draws to a close.

The big question now is how Erik comes up with a winning formula regarding those potentially becoming available and their lack of match sharpness, with two well-drilled opponents providing the opposition.

"We have players returning but it’s also match fitness," he stressed in one of his interviews after the victory over Newcastle. "We have to find the right balance and, also, some players can deal with this, some players maybe less so.

"We have to see but all the players are desperate to go to Wembley, to win the cup, but, first of all, we have to win the game at Brighton. That is the main focus."

The clamour for places means competition will hopefully be fierce with the stakes so high.

"I see that [them determined to play], the character every day," added the manager. "So hungry, so desperate to be available for the final, that spirit. They will need it. We need a high performance but, first we have to go to Brighton."

90 in 20: United v Newcastle Video

90 in 20: United v Newcastle

90 in 20 | The extended match highlights from United v Newcastle are available to view here...

Amad promoted his claims with a goal, assist and excellent display against the Magpies, while Jonny Evans has been a stout performer since overcoming injury to feature alongside Casemiro at the heart of the defence.

If Martinez proves his fitness, an obvious option is for Casemiro to revert to his familiar holding role in midfield, although Sofyan Amrabat has impressed in back-to-back outings in the engine room.

As any manager will tell you, these are the sort of headaches they like to have and it will be interesting to see the latest team news from Erik's pre-Brighton press conference at 16:30 BST today (Thursday) as the countdown to the end of the campaign continues.