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Ten Hag defends Martial amid fitness woes and insists Weghorst ‘is doing a very good job’

Erik ten Hag has defended Anthony Martial’s fitness record and says the forward is working hard to return to the Manchester United side.

Martial has endured a difficult season with injury problems and has made just six league starts during the current campaign.

 

The 27-year-old has suffered with Achilles, back and hamstring complaints and is sidelined once again after picking up a hip issue. Ten Hag has confirmed that Martial will miss Wednesday’s clash with Leeds, but has defended the Frenchman, who he insists is putting in the work to regain his fitness.

“He is not always available. Also I see the other side of when he is available and he is, [he] was never 100 per cent this season,” Ten Hag told his pre-match press conference.

“But he has a big impact every time he is available and even when he is it at 80, 85, 90 per cent. So, we do everything and Anthony Martial is doing everything.

“Anthony Martial I think is the player who spends the most hours at Carrington this season, to return, to recover, to get back. It is really such a pity for him and us. He is disappointed and he is not always available like we want him to be. That will improve our game because routines cannot continue when you are not always available.”

Ten Hag admits it has been difficult to resolve Martial’s issues, with the Dutchman revealing the forward’s absence is not a reoccurring problem.

“No [not the same]. Every time it is in a different area. At the moment it is his hip.”

Martial has scored six goals in just seven starts across all competitions this season and Ten Hag recently stated his belief that Manchester United are a better side when the forward is fit. United brought in Wout Weghorst on loan during the January transfer window to add depth to their centre-forward options.

Ten Hag was asked whether he had been frustrated by Martial’s absence, given Weghorst offers a different profile of player to the sidelined striker.

“No. I think in many situations I can see us being a good team with Wout [Weghorst]. Another scenario we would be better with [Anthony] Martial and I think Martial has some capabilities, skills-wise, he can be very variable.

“But Wout in that case is doing a very good job for us in pressing. His movement and his offensive moments are very good, he is the one who makes our players around him play better. To create spaces and also he adds contributions within the box.

“As a team we have to be better to co-ordinate that better because we have to anticipate on his movements, his movements are good. Quite a lot of times he comes close like the header when he hit the post against Forest. There was a penalty against Forest which he didn’t get and he has many good actions. Already he had a lot of contribution to our performance and to our results in this moment.”

Weghorst has scored just once in six appearances since his loan arrival from Burnley, but Ten Hag has been pleased with the all-round contribution of his compatriot.

“Especially for strikers, most of the time it takes time. Rashy [Marcus Rashford] at the start of the season, we discuss this often, and and every time I did say it will come, I have told you. It will come and we will work on the routines, the team has to act better but I see his potential.

“The same I see with Wout, he will score but in the meantime he does the other stuff very good. It is not about scoring as an individual, it is about scoring for the team, as the team has to win. I think he is doing a very good job in this moment in several aspects of the football.”

Read – Rating the impact of every striker Man United have signed since Fergie retired

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