Ten Hag replaced Man Utd gladiator that Rangnick was powerless to keep

Ten Hag backs Man Utd to end season with unbeaten run

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Erik ten Hag’s shrewd transfer business at Manchester United has seen him replace a gladiatorial figure of Ralf Rangnick’s squad that the German coach was powerless to keep at Old Trafford towards the end of last season. Ten Hag has successfully managed to get United moving in the right direction over the course of his time in charge, aside from a couple of heavy defeats at the hands of Manchester City and Liverpool, and the Dutchman’s clever use of the transfer market has played a huge role in shaping his side’s fortunes over the course of the campaign.

The likes of Lisandro Martinez and Casemiro have excelled on a consistent basis since joining United in the summer, while younger players like Antony and Tyrell Malacia have also shown plenty of promise for the Red Devils under Ten Hag’s guidance in recent months. However, it was the loan signing of Burnley forward Wout Weghorst that allowed the United boss to replace Edinson Cavani at the top of the pitch following the latter’s departure at the end of last season.

Cavani was never a sure-fire starter for United during his time at Old Trafford but was certainly a valued member of their attacking unit and often managed to impress off the bench by popping up with some important contributions. The veteran forward’s gladiator-like presence also saw him emerge as a popular figure with supporters, although Rangnick was helpless to prevent him from seeking a fresh challenge at the end of last season after he decided against signing a new and improved contract.

United’s wide forwards often reaped the rewards of Cavani’s presence at the tip of their attacking trident, with the Uruguayan striker regularly carving out chances for his teammates by making the most of his ability to hold the ball up in dangerous areas. Weghorst has gone on to take up a similar role when deployed by Ten Hag by making good use of his persistent running and imposing physical frame to help bring his fellow forwards into play in the final third.

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Although Weghorst is nowhere near as prolific in front of goal as Cavani has been throughout his career, the towering Dutchman is still a useful asset for the Red Devils as a result of his link-up play and willingness to put in the hard yards for his United colleagues. He was even pushed back into the No 10 role against Barcelona in the Europa League last month, which proved just how much his creative attributes are valued by Ten Hag in spite of his lack of goalscoring prowess.

Weghorst also managed to perform his drop-off and play-forward duties in the Carabao Cup final as he drove up the pitch with the ball at his feet before teeing up Marcus Rashford, who went on to score United’s second goal of the game with a deflected effort from close range. Ten Hag will be hoping that Weghorst will be able to keep up the good work until the end of the season as the Red Devils chase additional silverware over the coming months, with the FA Cup and Europa League still up for grabs as things stand.

The United boss recently admitted that although Weghorst would have hoped to have scored more goals by now, his attitude and persistence is often crucial to helping the team in a variety of other important ways.

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“I think he has intelligence from positions, he is a very good anticipator,” Ten Hag told United’s official website. “Of course, I tell him to [help] linking up there, which he is also doing as a high striker, but in that position [he is] linking up and getting in front of the goal when crosses are coming in. As for the rest, there is the defending part which he is also very good.

“Why does he start every game? Because he is capable. He is physically capable to play a lot of games. He is a very fit player, and he recovers very well. I expected that he will play a lot but obviously we have an injury with Anthony Martial, so it’s obvious that’s the main reason why he’s playing every game from the start to almost finish.

“[Against] Barcelona I think I took him off, but many other games he played [in full], and I think he’s doing well as the striker. He’s also bringing good performances as the no.10 in the midfield.”

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