Erik ten Hag is proving he is the BEST in-play tactician

Erik ten Hag is proving he is the BEST in-play tactician, with Antony’s Barcelona winner from the bench the 19th time a substitute has scored for Man United this season… the most of any team in Europe’s big five leagues

  • Erik ten Hag hasn’t been afraid to turn to his bench and it often works out for him
  • Antony came on at half-time to inspire Man United to a 2-1 win over Barcelona
  • It was the 19th goal a United substitute has scored for Ten Hag’s side this season 

Manchester United’s substitutes once again stepped up for Erik ten Hag, as the Dutchman continues to prove himself as the best in-play tactician in Europe.

Ten Hag – unhappy at United’s lacklustre first-half display against Barcelona on Thursday night – replaced Wout Weghorst with Antony at the interval in a move that ultimately became another stroke of genius.

It was a tactical move that allowed Marcus Rashford to shift from left wing to No 9, Jadon Sancho shuffled from No 10 to the left, while Bruno Fernandes drifted into the vacant central spot from the right wing. 

As soon as Antony came on, he caused Barcelona all sorts of problems with his pace and intricate footwork before completing United’s 2-1 turnaround with a sublime first-time finish to send Barcelona crashing out of the Europa League.

Remarkably, it was the 19th, yes 19th time, a Man United substitute had come on and scored this season – the most of any team in Europe’s big five leagues.

Antony came off the bench at half-time to score against Barcelona in what was the 19th goal from a Man United substitute this season

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag is proving to be the best in-play tactician in Europe this season

Antony was just the latest substitute to have an instant impact for Ten Hag from the bench, but the likes of Anthony Martial, Rashford, Alejandro Garnacho and Sancho have all done the same this season.  

Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli (17), Quique Setien’s Villarreal (17) and Xavi’s Barcelona (14) all come close to United’s tally but for now, Ten Hag is in a league of his own.


1. Manchester United – 19 

2. Napoli – 17 

3. Villarreal – 17 

4. Barcelona – 14 

=5. Atletico Madrid, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Fiorentina, Monaco, Real Madrid, Reims – 12

Perhaps more importantly, Ten Hag has demonstrated this season that he is not afraid to wait to make his move.

Rather than allow the game to get away, the Dutchman acts with confidence and authority.

As well as switching things up at half-time against Barcelona, the Dutchman also saw positive outcomes by making changes at the break against Liverpool, Omonia Nicosia, Wolves, Man City and Leicester.

On New Year’s Eve, Ten Hag actually dropped the in-form Rashford against Wolves for oversleeping and missing a team meeting.

However, with United unable to break through a resolute Wolves defence, Ten Hag brought the 25-year-old on and he stole all three points at Molineux with a second-half strike.

It’s become clear that unlike many managers in the post-Ferguson era at Old Trafford, Ten Hag is not afraid to make quick in-play decisions for the benefit of the team. 

United’s impressive record from the bench dates all the way back to Anthony Martial’s consolation brace against rivals Manchester City in a humbling 6-3 defeat at the Etihad in October.

However, the Frenchman did the same four days later against Omania Nicosia and also came off the bench to score against Nottingham Forest earlier this month, to take his tally to four substitute goals.

Ten Hag’s ability to act without hesitation was summed up against Omania back in October. With his side trailing at half-time, he brought on Rashford, who scored twice and set up fellow substitute Martial to seal a 3-2 victory for United. 

Erik ten Hag brought Marcus Rashford on at half-time against Wolves in December – he scored the winner 

Napoli and Villarreal have 17 goals from substitutes this season, but Ten Hag’s United are ahead

Martial’s tally is only bettered by Rashford, who has five goals from the bench, mainly from when Ten Hag has had to call upon the dependable striker in times of trouble. 

Meanwhile 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho has scored twice off the bench, including a stoppage time winner against Fulham in November, while Jadon Sancho has netted twice as a substitute since returning from a period away from the squad.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Scott McTominay and two from Fred make up the rest of the 19 goals United’s super subs have scored this season.

Ten Hag may have a strongest XI in his head, but the Dutchman has shown he will act with urgency to utilise his squad’s depth if the players on the pitch aren’t getting the job done. 

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