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“I don’t understand” – Erik ten Hag defends criticised Man United outcast following Brighton loss



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Erik ten Hag’s decision to replace Rasmus Hojlund with Anthony Martial during Manchester United’s 3-1 loss against Brighton was not well-received by supporters.

When the substitution board was raised and United’s new no.11 started jogging towards the sideline, the Old Trafford crowd made their feelings on the change known with deafening boos echoing across the stadium.

Hojlund was one of United’s best players and was unfortunate to have a debut goal ruled out by VAR – the movement and finish involved was typical of a top number nine that The Reds have not had in recent years.

However, United’s actual no.9 came onto the field. Once the wonderkid that Hojlund appears to be now, Martial now has seldom support within the wider fanbase. His fitness concerns in recent years have not helped him whatsoever.

In fact, Martial looked like one of the best players during the 2022 pre-season tour and there was hope that Ten Hag would help him reignite his career at Old Trafford. Instead, Martial’s presence on the pitch on Saturday seemed to deflate those who he used to excite.

Ten Hag, however, remains supportive of the frustrating forward. He does not believe that the crowd reaction was in relation to Martial coming on, but instead, Hojlund exiting the field – a move that he earlier explained was due to the Danish international’s fitness levels following the recovery of his back injury.

“I think it was because Rasmus Hojlund came off but I don’t want to discuss that, so I don’t know.

“But I think Anthony Martial last year, every time he played he had a very positive effect on our games. We even almost lost no games with Anthony Martial on the pitch.

“So if that’s the fact, then I don’t understand. Because when he (Martial) is fit, he will definitely contribute. At this moment, he is not top fit but he is improving and I’m sure when he is 100 per cent fit he will contribute again as last season.”

The Dutch manager isn’t completely wrong. Martial made positive impacts in several games last term. Yet, with Hojlund already showing his various abilities as a centre-forward, it’s looking difficult to justify Martial playing in that role for much longer.

Of course, the 20-year-old will not be able to play every game. Marcus Rashford can also play through the middle, although prefers to attack from the left, but there aren’t many other options at Ten Hag’s disposal.

The United manager believes that Martial can improve as long as he stays fit. “He has to make his own luck and first, be available and be consistently available and then you will see his form will be better,” he stated.

“As I said, every time last year when he was playing he affected our game in a positive way, so I hope he can stay fit and I’m sure he will contribute to our game.”