Ten Hag explains why Antony was subbed for Man Utd amid severe criticism; provides Cristiano Ronaldo verdict

Erik ten Hag of Man Utd Credit: Alamy
Erik ten Hag of Man Utd Credit: Alamy

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag revealed why Antony was taken off at half time in the 3-0 win against Sheriff Tiraspol, while he also spoke about Cristiano Ronaldo’s return.

Manchester United came close to opening the scoring in the 26th minute when Bruno Fernandes attempted to curl a shot into the net from outside the box. However, his effort went just wide.

Cristiano Ronaldo should have made it 1-0 just a few minutes later. Fernandes headed into his path and Ronaldo had the goal at his mercy from just a few yards out, but he didn’t get proper contact on his shot and this allowed the Sheriff keeper to save.

A rare Sheriff chance fell to Rasheed Akanbi in the 40th minute. A wicked cross came into the box and he should have headed it past David de Gea, but somehow the Nigerian missed the ball completely.

Antony left Ten Hag bemused in the 42nd minute by performing his trademark spin before passing the ball straight out of play. This led to some strong words from pundits Paul Scholes and Owen Hargreaves, who were not impressed.

Diogo Dalot gave Manchester United a much-needed goal shortly before half time by heading home from a corner.

Antony was replaced by Marcus Rashford at the break and the change worked. Fellow substitute Luke Shaw put a cross in and Rashford powerfully headed into the net.

Ronaldo eventually got his goal in the final 10 minutes of normal time, finishing from close range after his first effort had been saved. And Man Utd saw out the 3-0 victory at Old Trafford to make it four wins from five Europa League games this season.

Performance was only ‘OK’, says Ten Hag

During a post-match interview with BT Sport (via BBC Sport), Ten Hag said: “[The performance] was OK. Of course you hope you score in the first half hour so it took a bit long. But we deserved that goal.

“The second half we scored two more good goals from open play. I’m pleased with the clean sheet because we gave nothing away. It was a focused win.

“Our occupation of space in the box could still be done better. The second and third goals we did that well. We occupied positions and scored.”

Attention then turned to Antony’s showboating. Scholes called it ‘ridiculous’ and urged Ten Hag to ‘knock it out of him’. Hargreaves, meanwhile, thinks there needs to be ‘function’ after doing a piece of skill.

When asked if Antony was taken off because of his spin, Ten Hag replied: “No. It was more or less planned if we were up. I wanted to see Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo close together and the dynamic on the right side.

“[Alejandro] Garnacho played well, he was good in his action, so that was good to see.”

Ten Hag then spoke more about Ronaldo, who returned to the starting lineup and bagged his third goal of the campaign.

“Seeing Ronaldo get his goal was great,” the manager added. “He created, the team created for him and we know he has the capability to finish. He needed a goal and now I’m confident there will be more goals.”

Marcus Rashford reacts to Man Utd win

In a post-match interview with BT Sport, goalscorer Rashford said: “They set up to defend well and play on [the] counter. It took us a while and [we] got the first goal from a set piece so we’re happy with that.

“Once we went 1-0 ahead, the space opened up and we could have got a few more.

“Not getting the first goal quickly leads to a mix between frustration and calmness, you have to be calm to create chances and be clinical in taking them.

“Scoring before half time was a big help, it allowed us to look for more goals and space and we found them. It was about getting the job done.”

When asked about the trip to Real Sociedad next week, Rashford continued: “We have to go there and [win] by two goals. We have to score goals but defend well. It is going to be a tough game but we’re looking forward to the challenge.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work to adapt and change, but we’re getting there.”

Meanwhile, Fabrizio Romano says an attacker’s situation has ‘completely changed’, with Man Utd now poised to sign him.

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