Football News

“I don’t get that” – Man Utd legend urges Erik ten Hag to be more like Pep Guardiola

By Harry Edwards

Published: 22:46, 4 March 2024

Former Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel has admitted he was confused by some of Erik ten Hag’s substitutions in their derby defeat to Manchester City.

The Red Devils led 1-0 against Man City at half-time in their Premier League Manchester derby before falling to a 3-1 loss. It ended a run of 143 games in which Man Utd had led at the break without losing, since their 5-3 defeat to Leicester in September 2014.

Man Utd remain sixth in the Premier League, but they are now 11 points behind fourth-placed Aston Villa in the race for Champions League football and may have to settle for the Europa League. It’s been a tough season for Ten Hag, who had shown promising lasts in his debut campaign.

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Only in 2013/14 and 2021/22 have Man Utd lost more Premier League games than the 11 they currently stand on, losing 12 in both of those seasons — and they’re likely to break that record this year. Some Man Utd fans will have been angry at some of the goals Man City scored, with one coming not too long after Marcus Rashford went down under pressure from Kyle Walker.

Replays showed that Walker did have an arm on Rashford, though it was nowhere near enough to bring the Man Utd forward down. Man City went up the other end of the pitch and Phil Foden equalised with a rocket — after Rashford had given Man Utd a first-half lead with a scorcher of his own.

Putting Man City in the ascendancy, Man Utd had played well up until that point, but Schmeichel believes the game changed with Ten Hag’s substitutions.

In the 69th minute, Jonny Evans was taken off for Willy Kambwala to shake up the defence, and six minutes later Antony came on for Rashford. In the 80th minute, Man City made it 2-1 through Foden’s second, and two minutes later there were two more Man Utd changes. This time Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo came off, with Omari Forson and Sofyan Amrabat replacing them.

Amrabat was involved in Man City’s third, losing the ball on the edge of his own area, leading to Erling Haaland putting the game beyond doubt.

“I thought as the game progressed that the team fell in a little too deep. For my liking, I would have pushed them up a little bit,” he told TalkSport.

“And also then, when you need to change the game and they have equalised and scored again, the substitutions that you make.

“You take all your pace out, you take your driving force out of midfield off? You take your best defender off?

“I don’t get that. Are they being rested for the next game? I really don’t get the substitutions.

“When you look what Pep (Guardiola)’s doing, he is only taking off two players. Generally, he doesn’t substitute a lot.”

After the game, Ten Hag revealed that his substitutions were forced, with Rashford and Evans struggling for fitness. Overall, Man Utd have made 110 substitutions in the Premier League this season, which is in the lower half of the teams. It doesn’t feel like substitutions are a sign of success, with Liverpool making the third-most (119) and Arsenal also making more than Man Utd (112).

However, Man City have made fewer substitutions than any other team in the Premier League this season with just 74. West Ham have made the second-fewest with 75, while Crystal Palace (80) and Everton (82) are the other sides to have made fewer than 100 subs this season.

Man City’s average sits at 2.74 subs per game, compared to Man Utd’s 4.07.
That’s an average of 2.74 per game, compared to Man Utd’s 4.07.

Schmeichel isn’t the only one to implore Man Utd be more like Man City. Red Devils midfielder Casemiro has urged the new owners to look at Man City as inspiration on how to grow Man Utd once more.

“The first big objective is to catch up with them at this moment,” he told ESPN Brasil.

“Not in terms of history, as the history of United speaks for itself, but they are today the team to beat. Everyone wants to beat City.

“It is very clear the new owners want to evolve the club’s level, with City being our mirror. They have been doing a great job. I hope they help us grow together.”