Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Steven Railston

Erik ten Hag is about to reveal Manchester United's most important player with decision vs Chelsea

Eriksen return

Manchester United got a glimpse of what the future might look like with Erik ten Hag in charge against Tottenham in the Premier League on Wednesday night, with a raucous Old Trafford responding to an excellent performance on the pitch.

It was the best display of Ten Hag's premiership - the pressing was superb and United controlled the match throughout. It was a glimpse of the style that Ten Hag wants his side to play after he was forced to revert to a pragmatic approach earlier in the season.

It was also a result achieved without Christian Eriksen, who had just recovered from a bout of sickness, starting the match, which gave Fred the opportunity to retain his position in the lineup alongside Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes in midfield.

ALSO READ: Ten Hag explains why he dropped Ronaldo for Man United vs Chelsea

Eriksen has become undroppable since joining the club in the summer and his absence was felt against Newcastle. United were devoid of creativity in that goalless draw and Fred, who started at his expense, was awful and his passing was wayward.

Although it was advisable to drop Fred against Tottenham, he started the match instead and responded with an outstanding performance, which gives Ten Hag a selection dilemma for Chelsea, considering that Eriksen is now fully fit and ready to play.

Eriksen has been United's most important player this season but Fred does not deserve to lose his place.

Potter response

United welcomed Brighton to Old Trafford on the opening day of the Premier League season and the fixture signalled the official beginning of Ten Hag's era, which seemed to create an optimistic, hopeful feeling around the club during pre-season.

However, the hangover from last season continued and the good feeling disappeared after two goals from Pascal Gross in the first half of the contest. Brighton scored an own goal after the interval, but United were lacklustre and unable to equalise.

Graham Potter with Brighton at Old Trafford. (2022 Getty Images)

Brighton won 2-1 and they claimed the three points against United for the second time in just three months. Graham Potter was the mastermind behind those victories and he's since joined Chelsea, following the recent dismissal of Thomas Tuchel.

Potter won his first encounter against Ten Hag and the Dutchman will be keen to atone this weekend.

Rashford form

It was an overused cliche during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's reign that he was 'putting smiles back on faces' at Carrington after inheriting a broken squad from a dreary Jose Mourinho, but Ten Hag has achieved the same and with tactical substance, more importantly.

Ten Hag is restoring confidence in many players at the club who felt worthless last season and Marcus Rashford is someone clearly benefiting from his leadership, as the forward has looked renewed and free of self-doubt over the last few months.

Rashford has five goals and three assists this season, which means he's already surpassed his contribution last term, and he was unlucky not to score against Tottenham. Rashford is due a goal and he's scored five against Chelsea in his career.

United's away support

Although some of Cristiano Ronaldo's behaviour has been dubious since his return to Old Trafford, like when he threw his coat in anger against Brentford last season or expressed it was his desire to leave this summer, United supporters have stuck by him.

"Viva Ronaldo," has been heard from the terraces and his popularity has not wavered, but his most recent outburst against Tottenham in midweek has not been accepted by fans, who were disappointed he overshadowed a brilliant performance.

Ronaldo is not in the squad for Chelsea and it's unlikely the away support will chant his name on Saturday evening.

Youngsters on the bench

Zidane Iqbal, Alejandro Garnacho and Facundo Pellistri have all travelled to London with the squad on Friday night and they are expected to make the bench at Stamford Bridge, with key first-team players still sidelined with injury.

Iqbal and Garnacho have already made their first-team debuts but Pellistri has not and that could change with a cameo.


Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.