Erik ten Hag has heaped praise on Scott McTominay following his commanding performance against Liverpool on Monday night.
The Red Devils ran out 2-1 victors against Jurgen Klopp’s men, courtesy of goals from Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford. A late Mohamed Salah consolation proved exactly that, a consolation, as the hosts climbed out of the relegation zone.
A collective sigh of relief enveloped Old Trafford when the final whistle sounded as Ten Hag secured his first official win as Man Utd manager, putting to bed their disastrous start to the season, in which they suffered successive defeats to Brighton and Brentford.
The Dutch coach shuffled the pack for this showdown following last weekend’s humiliation in west London, introducing Raphael Varane, Tyrell Malacia, Scott McTominay and Anthony Elanga from the off — and the tactical rejig worked an absolute treat.
Malacia produced a memorable full debut for the club, while Elanga brought a vibrance to the attacking line that was lacking last week with Cristiano Ronaldo. Varane formed a firm centre-back partnership with Lisandro Martinez, while McTominay was putting out fires any time Liverpool charged forward.
On a day where the club officially confirmed the signing of Casemiro from Real Madrid, and the Brazilian ball destroyer got a chance to introduce himself to the Old Trafford crowd before kick-off, McTominay rose his game, laying down a marker to his new team-mate.
Where the Man Utd midfield has often flattered to deceive, lacking the requisite balance and cohesion to dictate matches, Ten Hag found a harmonious combination on Monday night, with McTominay offering protection, Christian Eriksen linking play, and Bruno Fernandes causing chaos ‘in the hole’.
Manchester United are the first team to beat Liverpool in the Premier League in 2022, ending their 21-game unbeaten run.
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Fernandes was an absolute wizard against the Reds, pulling the creative strings and finding ample space to fluidly control the attacking third. Eriksen was a tidy link, finding neat through balls in tight areas of the pitch, while McTominay provided a buffer just behind.
On his midfield combo, Ten Hag told Sky Sports in the aftermath: “Tactically, you see where you can have weapons in the game. You see we have speed, then Fernandes and Eriksen have a pass. McTominay had a magnificent game.”
A loss and another unconvincing performance would have almost certainly seen Casemiro walk into the side for Saturday’s trip to Southampton, but given how well the McTominay-Eriksen double pivot worked, the Brazilian may have to bide his time.