Ten Hag hails depth of Man Utd squad amid quadruple push
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Erik ten Hag lauded the triumph of his Manchester United side in the Carabao Cup before turning his attention back to the remaining three competitions as his side chase the quadruple dream, with Liverpool up next. But as the Red Devils boss prepares for his first Anfield experience since taking over at Old Trafford, he would do well to heed the subtle warning sent out by their opponents.
The 53-year-old was keen for his side to limit their celebrations after ending their six-year wait for a trophy, ordering his players not to get “lazy” as they attempt to win three more pieces of silverware this season.
“This has to be the inspiration, the motivation to keep going on this pathway and improve,” Ten Hag told reporters, when asked about the desire to go for further trophies.
“Be happy for 24 hours but not satisfied because that leads to laziness. When you become lazy you don’t win any more games and you can’t win trophies.”
Having swept past Manchester City in the derby at Old Trafford and overcome Barcelona in two legs to reach the Europa League last-16 knockout, United are well in the hunt. Defeating Liverpool at Anfield would put Ten Hag in revered terrority with the fans and would send out a clear statement of intent to close the gap on Arsenal to five points in the title race.
But with the FA Cup and Europa League also still in play, United are set to stretch themselves thin across the remaining three competitions – and that could have lasting repercussions. About this time last year, it was Jurgen Klopp’s side competing on all four fronts – and they came agonisingly close to achieving the unthinkable before falling short at the final hurdle.
After beating Chelsea in both the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals on penalties, they came home empty-handed in the Premier League after City took home title by two points, while Real Madrid edged past the Merseyside outfit 1-0 in a closely-fought Champions League final in Paris.
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The effect that run had on the squad is that the exhausted players played the maximum number of matches possible in the 2021-22 season, and Klopp relied on the core members of that team – Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk, Fabinho and Mohamed Salah – for the vast majority of them.
This season, however, there has been a notable drop-off in fitness and form, with theories raised about the mental and physical effects of their lung-bursting quadruple challenge. Liverpool, with a relatively small squad, struggled to deal with the aftermath. And there is a concern that United could fall into the same trap.
For that reason, United will go into the game as slight favourites after Liverpool’s damaging 5-2 defeat to Real Madrid, while the Red Devils are being spearheaded by the indomitable Casemiro and red-hot Marcus Rashford.
It is the first in a series of tests for United to overcome over the next few weeks, and their quadruple push would be unquestionably boosted by it.
But if their transfer activity is set to be limited over the summer without selling players first, Ten Hag would do well to avoid wearing out his players like Liverpool did last season in a futile attempt to win the quadruple.
After all, there is always next season – when the Premier League and Champions League may be more realistic goals to aim for.
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