Ten Hag hits back at Rooney’s claim that Manchester United players are faking injuries

Dutchman says players are ‘desperate’ to regain fitness before end of season

Premier League: Manchester United v Newcastle United, Wednesday, 8.0 – Live on Sky Sports Premier League

Erik ten Hag has rejected Wayne Rooney’s claim that some of Manchester United’s injured footballers are fit enough to play, by stating they all are “desperate” to be involved.

Rooney, a former United captain and the club’s record goalscorer, made his assertion after the 1-0 defeat by Arsenal on Sunday while working as a Sky Sports pundit, saying he was “100 per cent sure” that players were declaring themselves unfit without being so and that this had left Ten Hag to “take all the stick”. His comments were put to the manager.

“No,” Ten Hag said. “You have to see here in Carrington [at the training centre]. The players are desperate to play. I see Licha [Lisandro] Martínez, I see Bruno [Fernandes] – he did a fitness test on Sunday to play. [Marcus] Rashford did everything he could do. He trained and tried to train last week but he didn’t make it. Players are desperate to play, they want to be in the right shape. You see also Victor Lindelöf and Raphaël Varane, they are training to make themselves available for the [FA Cup] final. They do what they can do.”

Martínez should be fit for the visit of Newcastle United on Wednesday but the availability of Rashford, Fernandes and Willy Kambwala is in the balance. Martínez has been unavailable for 36 of United’s 49 games this season because of foot, knee and calf problems. Ten Hag said: “Especially on the pitch we need him. There he shows his spirit, there he’s the warrior if fit.


“When his fitness standards are high, he’s an absolute leader for us, an absolute warrior. He gives the right spirit and he’s a very important player in our defending line. We missed him almost across the whole season.”

United are in eighth, three points behind Chelsea and Newcastle, with a considerably inferior goal difference to both, meaning Ten Hag’s side may have to beat Manchester City in the FA Cup final on Saturday week to qualify for Europe next season. United’s disappointing season is provoking scrutiny regarding Ten Hag’s position, yet the Dutchman believes fans still support him.

“Yes. In the stadium, away and home, they are always backing the team and backing me, and also when I’m in the street many come to me. Maybe it’s just politeness but I don’t feel it like this. I almost never get a negative reaction because the fans understand where we are, they understand the club is in transition and the huge problems we have had to face, especially in [injury] positions in key areas.”

After the Newcastle game, United players will undertake a lap of appreciation for fans given it is their last home game of the season. Ten Hag is confident he he will keep his job and it will not be a farewell from him. “Goodbye? For me? It’s not how I feel it and how I see it. It’s not the way I go to start that lap of honour for the fans, no.”

Varane will leave as a free agent in the summer and Ten Hag is hopeful the defender can be fit for the last league match at Brighton on Sunday and the Cup final the following Saturday. – Guardian