Erik ten Hag says he is reluctant to start Anthony Martial against Nottingham Forest on Sunday after the French striker played 62 minutes of Man Utd’s 2-2 draw against Sevilla.
On Thursday evening, Martial made his first start since returning from his latest injury setback.
It has been an injury-ravaged campaign for the 27-year-old – who was very impressive against Sevilla as Man Utd threw away a two-goal lead to draw their Europa League quarter-final first leg.
Ten Hag praised Martial for his impact against the club he spent the second half of last season on loan with.
He told reporters on Friday: “Oh, I think you see first half we were in a really good shape.
“Aaron Wan-Bissaka played very well, Antony played very well, Marcel Sabitzer did really well, Bruno very good and Anthony Martial as well, Rapha and Licha.
“There were many positives about yesterday’s game.”
Asked if Martial will be able to start against Forest this weekend, Ten Hag replied: “Maybe he can but it’s a risk and we can’t take that risk in this moment because we don’t have so many options in the frontline with Rashford and Garnacho injured.
“We have to be careful and also in the individual prospect we know when there’s a lot of load he gets injured and we have to build it, especially when the games come quick.”
Man Utd could end up playing over 60 games this season and Ten Hag has often complained about fixture congestion, but said on Friday that the extra matches will give his players more “energy”.
“Yes but I also see an advantage, more games, so more routines, we like to play, that will give the energy,” he said.
“I think many advantages and we want to go for silverware and we have to give energy if we are to make the season a success.”
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Ten Hag had to bring off Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez against Sevilla and the Dutch manager has called on his experienced players to help his side through this difficult period.
“Of course, they have to help the team with their experience because they have the experience to win silverware,” he added. “They have to coach the team.”
The Red Devils were being tipped to compete for the Premier League title at one point this season but a run of poor results means they are now hoping to see off competition to secure a spot in the top four.
Ten Hag has told his team to be ready to “battle” until the end of the season and wants any players not willing to do so to “look for another club”.
“Every game is a battle, every game is a fight and you have to be ready for that fight,” he said.
“We have a squad – we have more than 11 starters – so now others are on and when their time is there you have to show and contribute to the team, you have to be ready.
“That is what we expect and what we demand. Then you find excuses, if you want to find excuses you have to look for another club.
“When the moment is there you have to contribute and that is what we demand.”
Ten Hag has been criticised for substituting Bruno Fernandes against Sevilla with his side 2-0 up, but has said he did so to avoid him being sent off.
He also says he brought Antony off as he was getting involved in an “unnecessary” battle with Sevilla defender Marcos Acuna.
“Because the next Bruno was throwing a ball away, so the next he is off,” he explained. “He [the referee] saved him because Sevilla did the same in the first half and the player from Seville got booked for it.
“Antony, finally, he saw it out but don’t come in such circumstances, everything is going our way. 2-0 up, we’re playing a good game, so don’t go into individual battles with your opponents, it’s not necessary, you’re heating up the opponent and the risk to get sent off. I don’t want to take the risk.
“It’s easily… so afterwards we call it where I’m coming from, you’re looking a cow in the ass. Yeah, a cow in the ass. So we call it in my region from the Netherlands, that is easy.
“But when he got sent off you tell me, ‘Why don’t you get him off? Why don’t you go for the risk?””
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