Ghana's No. 1

Man City defeat has presented Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag with new dressing room challenge

Published on: 05 October 2022

Sunday's shambolic display at Manchester City reminded many United fans about the challenges that still lie ahead for Erik ten Hag.

The gulf in class was plain for the world to see at the Etihad Stadium and left the positive momentum which the Dutchman had created in shatters. Star performers in recent weeks like Lisandro Martinez and Tyrell Malacia were a shadow of their pre-international break selves.

United fans now feel like they are right back at the beginning once again. Before the Manchester derby, the question on everyone's lips was whether this side could be deemed serious title contenders. The answer is clearly no.

For some of the fringe players at Old Trafford there is a new, more pertinent question that they could start asking of their manager sooner rather than later: "Why am I not getting an opportunity to impress?"

These calls have already begun in earnest with Facundo Pellistri's not so thinly-veiled message to Ten Hag. "Now in Manchester we have an important string of games, so I also hope to get minutes at the club," the 20-year-old told ESPN Argentina.

"Erik ten Hag is a good coach, with a very clear idea; I really want to start participating in the team." His comments followed on from United loanee Hannibal Mejbri outlining his desire for more games next season at the Theatre of Dreams too.

"I need to play some games, that’s why I came on loan, get some experience," Hannibal told Birmingham Live. "As we saw with James Garner who went to Everton, he did a good season in the Championship so I need to do the same and maybe go next year and win my place at United."

It could well be that Pellistri and Hannibal are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to players pleading with Ten Hag to be given more of a regular opportunity. Donny van de Beek, for example, might be wondering when his time will come to impress in midfield considering how few chances he has been given since arriving in 2020 while Alejandro Garnacho continues to prove himself for United's academy on a near-weekly basis and might be thinking his time has come for regular first-team minutes.

Ten Hag will not be surprised that there are fringe members of his squad who are becoming mildly unsettled at present and he may well attempt to use this as motivation for his current United first teamers. It may seem obvious but, performances like the one we witnessed against City and earlier in the season vs Brentford, only serve one purpose for those out of the side - as ammunition to use against the manager.

On Thursday night, United's Dutch coach will be hoping to see a big reaction from the players he chooses. Ten Hag will have learnt a lot about his squad in the days that have followed since the derby drumming and that will be reflected in his team selection.

However, nothing short of a comfortable win in Cyprus will see Ten Hag manage to quash the unrest from his back-up options.


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