Ten Hag needs to break his own golden rule at United

 

Erik ten Hag, Manager of Manchester United, looks on prior to the UEFA Europa League round of 16 leg one match between Manchester United and Real Betis at Old Trafford on March 09, 2023 in Manchester, England. 

Erik ten Hag has already shown during his time at Manchester United that he's not afraid to make tough decisions.

His attitude towards player unrest in the camp is a prime example of this. Cristiano Ronaldo was swiftly dealt with after his infamous interview with Piers Morgan and Jadon Sancho currently finds himself exiled from the first-team squad due to his response to the manager's criticism of him following the Arsenal defeat.

While Ten Hag isn't afraid to wield the axe if a player steps out of line, he is a creature of habit when it comes to selecting a starting XI for a competitive fixture, even if it's one that most would view as an opportunity to offer key players a break.

Both the Carabao Cup and, to a lesser extent, the FA Cup are seen as opportunities for promising youngsters to take to the field and get a taste of first-team football, particularly the early rounds. But during his first season at United Ten Hag rarely strayed from his strongest starting XI.

Despite being 3-0 up on aggregate heading into the second leg of United's League Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest last term, Ten Hag opted not to make wholesale changes. The approach undoubtedly helped United end their six-year trophy drought and they did well to make it to the final of the FA Cup, though the players were evidently struggling with the packed schedule towards the end of the season.

Injuries have been mounting at Old Trafford since the 2023/24 campaign began and while players are returning from the treatment room, there are still areas of the team that are wafer-thin. A prime example is the full-back department with Luke Shaw, Tyrell Malacia and Aaron Wan-Bissaka still sidelined.

Ten Hag has Diogo Dalot and Sergio Reguilon fit to play and with the Champions League having started and the Premier League in full swing, the Reds can ill afford another injury. Other players like Casemiro, Bruno Fernandes and Rasmus Hojlund would be sorely missed were they to pick up a knock.

Ten Hag must face the reality of the situation and while it would be nice to go full strength against Crystal Palace this evening, he must rotate and bring some fringe players into the team.

He might not like it but the players need it.

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