Man United FC

Erik ten Hag has delivered clear transfer message to Manchester United fans about ‘fringe’ players

During the midweek win over Burnley, Aaron Wan-Bissaka made his debut under Erik ten Hag.

Erik ten Hag surprised not just with his team selection but also with his post-match comments to the media as Manchester United returned to domestic matters with a pretty straightforward victory against Championship opponents Burnley on Wednesday night.

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While his and other hands may have been pushed by the one-of-a-kind World Cup showcase, with heroic finalists Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane still out, Ten Hag picked an unconventional back four at Old Trafford, with Casemiro as an emergency option alongside rarely-seen Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

Casemiro was no ordinary makeshift, as he exuded class in an uncomfortable situation. However, for his right-back counterpart, the Carabao Cup match represented a missed and priceless opportunity.

Wan-Bissaka had only played four minutes this season before being deemed surplus to requirements by Ten Hag this summer and made available for transfer. Will his strong performance and uncommon assist have an impact on transfer plans once the market reopens?

Perhaps they have already done so. “It’s obvious, he has a future,” Ten Hag stated in his post-match press conference.

“He had some terrific years here, but from the start this season he had many sicknesses and injuries. He’s fit and able to train with the team since the restart, and you can see him developing. His fitness is improving, and I’m pleased with his performance [against Burnley].

“Especially with the manner he delivered an assist, his movement at the perfect time, the timing, a wonderful pass from Bruno [Fernandes], but the assist is great, so I’m satisfied with his performance, he did good,” said the coach.

Ten Hag has almost exclusively deployed Diogo Dalot at right-back since his arrival as United manager, with Wan-Bissaka only appearing once in a four-minute cameo against Liverpool in August before being given a chance at redemption. However, as previously stated, there are mitigating circumstances for that absence from the first-team picture.

There appeared to be no way back for Wan-Bissaka, with interest in him peaking in January, as United chased players as competition for Dalot moving ahead. But, whether or not Wan-Bissaka does push his way into the discussion, Ten Hag has once again delivered a clear message to other players in a similar situation to the £50 million man signed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in 2019.

Of course, with the restricted alternatives available to him so soon after the Qatar showcase, it’s not out of the question that Ten Hag used Wan-Bissaka to keep him relevant and match-ready as the market reopens next month. Even for the most devout cynic, that outlook may be too far.

If nothing else, the manager has avoided such games in the media since moving from Amsterdam to United this summer. He is direct and honest, which is pleasant in comparison to some of his peers, but even hard reality is easier to swallow than false hope.

Given his flawless record, Wan-post-match Bissaka’s comments must be taken at face value. He faces a difficult task in replacing Dalot in the starting XI on a consistent basis, but by seizing his unexpected opportunity, the defender has done himself and other fringe players a favor by demonstrating that Ten Hag does not run a closed shop when it comes to selection – and he has done so at the perfect time.


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