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Erik ten Hag has three “pretend defenders” at Man United, claims their former manager



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Manchester United have three “pretend defenders” in Erik ten Hag’s squad amid problems with their defence, according to a former manager.

Manchester United have conceded 134 shots in their last six fixtures, with this seeming like an alarming statistic for Erik ten Hag‘s squad.

This season, the club has had a monumental injury crisis, with Lisandro Martínez, Luke Shaw, Tyrell Malacia, Harry Maguire, Raphaël Varnane, and Victor Lindelöf out for sustained periods of time across the 2023/24 campaign.

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However, former Sir Alex Ferguson assistant René Meulensteen has explained that their defensive problems don’t just come from the defenders – the club also have “pretend defenders” in attack, naming Marcus Rashford, Alejandro Garnacho, and Antony.

“What I think a lot of fans sometimes question him (Rashford), and not only him, it’s also the same with Antony, it’s the same with Garnacho – they have a little bit of a tendency to be pretend defenders,” Meulensteen said on the Coaches’ Voice space on X.

“They have to do the drop back into shape, but they don’t affect anything. They don’t really press aggressively when they need, they don’t really start really hunting, you know, like a bull down when it’s played back and really chase it down and making false opposition in mistakes.”

Meulensteen also managed United’s reserve team and clubs such as Fulham and currently serves as the assistant manager of the Australian national side.

“And that is, I think, one of the things that I would definitely address with him (Rashford) as well. What you do then is you create triggers for other people, for other players around you to be aggressive as well, to be more tenacious.

“But at the end of the day, he’s a lovely guy. He’s a lovely guy, he’s got a heart at the right place, he’s a really good footballer. And like I said, it’s with everybody, if you’re not happy within yourself or something, you have to address it.

“The key is to make sure that you address it within. Don’t go public in that respect; don’t go off it. He’s done that with his article, which I think was, in this case, the right thing for him to do. But now it is all about actions, you know? Actions speak louder than words. That’s where he is at the moment.”