Harry Maguire not guaranteed return to Manchester United team, says Ten Hag

Harry Maguire not guaranteed return to Manchester United team, says Ten Hag

Erik ten Hag has said Harry Maguire’s status as captain offers no guarantee of a return to the team, especially as the manager has the “immense” Raphaël Varane in his squad.

Maguire was dropped in favour of the Frenchman for Monday’s 2-1 win over Liverpool and Varane impressed in central defence with Lisandro Martínez. United are at Southampton for Saturday’s early kick-off and Ten Hag was asked whether the captain not playing was awkward.

“Yeah but I think that doesn’t mean when you are captain you are established to always play,” he said. “Especially when you also have Varane in your squad. We have options. Varane: his stature is immense and in pre-season we took a decision to build him physically so he had a bit of a slow start. He was fit in the first games but in the first period of pre-season he wasn’t always so we are happy we built him in that way.”

Varane has won the World Cup with France and four Champions Leagues and two La Liga titles with Real Madrid. “You see when the team needed him he was really there [against Liverpool] and his profile, his stature and what he won already in the past shows he can really contribute to his team,” Ten Hag said. “For the team there is competition, and we need that. We have to cover so many games and we can do that in several constructions. We can see from game to game what we need.”

Bruno Fernandes captained United against Liverpool. Ten Hag shrugged off whether he may make the Portuguese his official leader if Maguire continues to be left out.

“I am not looking so far – we are only one game [like this],” he said. “We have a leader group and Harry is one of them, Bruno is one of them. Bruno did quite well as captain. He led by example and he brings so much energy to the team in and out of possession.”

United’s goals against Liverpool were scored by Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford. Ten Hag said: “I was really happy that they scored because I hope that it will give them the push so that they can do the hard work and contribute in defending and pressing but also contribute to creating and taking chances and that is what they are really good at. It’s about when they believe that they will do it.”

Ten Hag may give Casemiro his debut at Southampton. The Brazilian’s transfer from Madrid was a surprise, particularly as it was completed quickly. “We have a list – he was always on it but we didn’t know he would become available,” Ten Hag said. “In the moment that we got signals, we got proactive and we got it done and we are really happy about that. The intention always has to be for Man United to look for better. So good is not good enough, always go for better.”