Manchester United emerged victorious today, but manager Erik ten Hag is not feeling good about it. Who can blame him? His top gun and leading scorer, Marcus Rashford got injured, and the severity of that injury remains to be seen.
Ten Hag was not shy about blaming the schedule makers for what happened to Rashford. It’s easy to see where he’s coming from too.
United won the League Cup this season, they’re still alive for the FA Cup and Europa League, while remaining in the hunt for a top four position in the Premier League.
In other words, they have a lot to play for, night in and night out, and in total, they could play up to 65 matches in the 2022-23 season.
And this all comes against the backdrop of the insanely stupid idea to have a mid-season World Cup. Moving the tournament to the winter, for the first time ever, wreaked havoc on the schedule.
The ensuing fixture pileup, and the overtime workload that followed made injuries inevitable.
Ten Hag was asked by a reporter for a Rashford injury update.
“I can’t say in this moment, you are doctor, maybe?” I am not,” he answered.
“We have to wait, how bad or how good it is. Obviously he went off with a complaint, now we have to wait, set a diagnosis and we will see.
“Some things you can’t avoid but it was avoidable. Why is the Premier League giving us the late Sunday night game [last week vs. Newcastle] and giving us the early Saturday game? I think it’s not right.
“You run the risk, the players can’t recover that quickly, we know all research that players need a certain period to recover and it accumulates.
“So then you run even more of a risk. It’s also part of the schedule that we now find ourselves in this situation and now we can only pray he is not dropping off.
Rashford has 15 goals in league play this season, 29 across all competitions.
Ten Hag continued on with his epic rant.
“Not any manager at this stage of the season will rotate so much. I know it’s the toughest league, of all the leagues we are in you need a squad to rotate to a certain point,” the gaffer added.
“But this was avoidable, it was not necessary to set the schedule like we have now. I think another fact is more important than the sporting element like protecting the players. Today we have seen a very entertaining afternoon but players can’t do it so often when they’re not fresh.
“We create a lot of chances but missing the chances is part of a lack of freshness in the final moment and the risk of injuries. We have to protect the players and it’s in the interests of the total football.
“Everyone, the audience, wants to see great football and you need to have your best players.
There was some surprisingly good news today too though- Anthony Martial scored for the first time in forever. Perhaps he can consistently stay healthy?
And step and fill the void if Rashford is out of commission for awhile?
Ten Hag wasn’t done.
“I had that consideration but in that moment, you want also Anthony Martial, just coming back, you want to bring them back into routines and togetherness.
“Because when they are together we have two goal-scoring players, clinical players, who can finish games and that’s what we need in the final stage of the season to be successful. That’s the reason why we kept them on,” he added.
“Also, there was no indication, when there was an indication in the last days or this game, then of course I would have taken him off.”
There is a whole lot to think about there. He is not wrong.
Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Sports Bank. He’s also the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”
He’s written for numerous publications, including the New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune. He regularly appears on NTD News and WGN News Now. Follow the website on Twitter and Instagram.