The squad’s players will get more minutes at Man Utd heading into a week of two big cup games.
Erik ten Hag has penned some forward-looking program notes for the Sevilla game. On a night when two first-team players succumbed to injury, it was fitting for the Manchester United manager to pay tribute to four squad players.
“I must also pay tribute to players like Scott McTominay and Marcel Sabitzer who have been instrumental in recent games,” Ten Hag wrote. “We saw that with Harry Maguire on Saturday, as we saw with Victor Lindelof in previous games, and it’s that spirit and mentality that is what we want at this stage of the season: that every player has to be ready to come in and play if we want to achieve our goals.”
Maguire and Lindelof are set to join the Nottingham Forest squad with Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez on the treatment table. Maguire has had the advantage of playing three of United’s last four halves, but Lindelof has made two Premier League starts this calendar year.
The way Maguire progressed to the League Cup final, both set to lift the trophy and save United’s clean sheet, suggested his run was over. Still, he overtook Lindelof as Ten Hag’s best reserve centre-back.
Lindelof is unhappy with this development and the timing of his snubs against Real Betis and Fulham last month has seen him speak with uncertainty about his future at United while on international duty in Sweden.
Forest would be Lindelof’s sixth appearance for United in the past two months, so he barely featured in Ten Hag’s thank you letter. For the second time in his United career and the first since his first season at the club, Lindelof failed to pass the 30-game mark.
Lindelof made 45 appearances in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first full season and 47 in his second. That Scandinavian solidarity marked Lindelof as a Solskjaer favorite. Last season was traumatic as Lindelof suffered an episode during the 1-0 win at Norwich and subsequently contracted Covid-19. Before boarding a plane to Manchester after playing in London, he was informed of a break-in at his home. Lindelof’s wife heroically picked up their two children and reached the panic room.
Under Ten Hag, Lindelof formed an impressive axis with Lisandro Martinez during Varane’s absence in the autumn. Since the season resumed in December, he has taken a backseat; all the more curious given that United intend to sell Maguire in the summer.
Forest’s four defenders may have Solskjaer’s fingerprints. Aaron Wan-Bissaka is an emerging right-back and Ten Hag spoke optimistically of the return of Luke Shaw.
Sabitzer looks certain to start his sixth game in a row and it would make sense to make his loan move permanent if Bayern Munich don’t overinflate the 29-year-old’s value. McTominay was a key cog in both home wins last week and Ten Hag is the fourth United manager to endear himself to the Scot.
The foursome above stand ready when called upon. The same goes for Facundo Pellistri, who is almost guaranteed to create a goalscoring opportunity. Others didn’t seem ready. “So now there are others and when their time comes, you have to show that and contribute to the team,” Ten Hag stressed. “You must be ready. This is what we expect and this is what we ask.
“If you want to find excuses, then you don’t have to play for Manchester United, you have to look for another club. You have to bide your time and when the time comes, you have to contribute, bring a result and that.” that’s what we ask.”
As a colleague pointed out, United could have up to 13 marketable assets on their roster this summer. There are question marks over the future of Lindelof, Maguire, McTominay and Sabitzer after this season, but their importance over the next eight days cannot be overstated.
Even if they are team players.