Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has defended his team’s display despite being given a scare by Cypriot minnows Omonia Nicosia in Europa League group stage play.
United won 3-2 at the GSP Stadium on Thursday after trailing 1-0 at half-time. Marcus Rashford scored twice and Anthony Martial got another after both came off the bench to rescue United, but Ten Hag insisted afterwards he didn’t see a lot wrong with the performance.
“I think it was a bad 10 minutes after we conceded the goal,” Ten Hag told a news conference after the game. “I think first-half — and it’s not easy against an opponent, so compact to create chances — and we created a lot of chances.
“We came back and that’s a positive from a mentality area, but you can’t compare this with the game on Sunday [against Manchester City].
“Football is a game of mistakes. In the first 30 or 35 minutes we played quite well, the only thing we didn’t do was score a goal.
“When you score a goal you make your life easy, we didn’t and then we concede a goal and it was the worst 10 minutes of the game from us. After half-time, we dealt well with the setback.”
One positive for Ten Hag was the performance of Martial, who scored after coming on as a substitute for the second game in a row. He returned from an Achilles injury to score twice in the 6-3 defeat to Manchester City on Sunday and found the net again against Omonia with a sharp strike into the bottom corner from outside the box.
Injuries have restricted the Frenchman to just three substitute appearances this season, but he has made a case to start against Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday.
“We want to do it really carefully because he had a good pre-season — good, fit, also good impact — and last 10 minutes against Atletico Madrid he fell out and then he returned against Liverpool and got another injury that put him far back,” Ten Hag said.
“I cannot force it. I have to do it with a plan, that is what we’re trying to do. It’s quite clear, we’re happy with his performance, all the substitutes had a really good impact.
“That’s what I expect from players on the bench. You are not playing with 11, you are playing with five, so every substitute has to be ready and tonight is just the best example you can get.”