Erik ten Hag, Manchester United’s head coach, displayed visible irritation and anger during a press conference when questioned about his decision to bench Raphael Varane for the Manchester City derby, a match that resulted in a loss for United. Instead of choosing the French veteran, Ten Hag opted for Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans, with the latter finding it particularly challenging to keep up with Erling Haaland’s prowess on the field.
The manager staunchly defended his choice to exclude Varane, emphasizing the tactical aspects of his decision. When pressed further on the issue, Ten Hag’s frustration was palpable as he retorted, “I said it from the start I just explained it, the question of why. Do you want me to explain it again?” He elaborated that playing Varane and Maguire together on the left could create issues when up against City’s high press, necessitating long balls, whereas Harry is more adept on the right, particularly against teams that employ an aggressive press.
Ten Hag initially praised Evans and Maguire’s performance, pointing out that despite the pressure from City, they managed to create angles and effectively counter the press, a strategy he deemed successful.
However, the United manager chose not to comment on the penalty awarded to City due to a foul by Rasmus Hojlund on Rodri, simply stating “No comment” multiple times. He did, however, address the decision to substitute Hojlund amidst boos from the United fans, explaining, “I have to protect Rasmus and I have to protect the team. He is putting so much effort in pressing, in the transitions and when we are losing the game 2-0, he is not used to three games in a week so I have to protect him and the team. We have bench players, Mason Mount and Garnacho, he can change games.”
Looking forward, Manchester United aims to regroup after their derby loss as they prepare to welcome Newcastle for a Carabao Cup fixture on Wednesday, a rematch of the previous year’s final which saw United emerge victorious.