Anthony Martial of Manchester United was sent off at halftime in the Manchester derby after a sluggish 45-minute performance.
Erik ten Hag had earlier informed journalists that due to his physical condition, Martial would struggle to play 90 minutes twice in a few days, but the player could only manage an uninspiring first half against Manchester City.
After the triumph, when asked why Martial was doubted for the match, Ten Hag said: “I hoped to avoid that he was getting injured but he was complaining. That’s why he didn’t train over the week and was a doubt [for the derby].
“We decided – and he agreed – to begin. He begged to begin. I knew the start would be crucial in this game, and he is very adept at pressing and a significant part of our pushing, but I needed to re-evaluate at halftime.
“As you can see, he wasn’t able to go 100 percent, which is exactly what you need. We also took him off to avoid him getting hurt, but it had a bad impact on our game after halftime.”
Antony came in for Martial at halftime, and the Brazilian started the second half as a center-forward, which was surprising given that Marcus Rashford, who has frequently been forced to play through the middle, was on the left wing.
Alejandro Garnacho was finally brought, and Rashford was switched to center-forward, with Antony going to his favorite position, although having to play as a No.9 was exactly why Wout Weghorst was signed on loan.
Weghorst was at Old Trafford with his young family on Saturday afternoon, and he must be excited about the chance ahead of him, since not only does he get to play for Manchester United, but the club’s only other recognized striker is injured.
Despite Ten Hag’s insistence that he would have to consider whether to give the 30-year-old his Premier League debut against Crystal Palace on Wednesday, the Dutchman is assured minutes during his six-month stay in Manchester.
“I’ll have to think about it,” Ten Hag remarked of the possibility of launching Weghorst. “First settle down after this game, make the proper conclusions, and then we will formulate a clear plan for Palace. Of course, I am well-versed in Palace.
“We faced them also in pre-season and know how their team is – but the entire plan I don’t have yet. I didn’t construct it till today. So, from now on, we can build the plan and properly prepare the squad.”
Ten Hag held his cards close to his breast, but Weghorst appears to be set to begin at Selhurst Park. This season, United has urgently needed a consistent center-forward, and Weghorst should be able to bring the clinical edge that has been lacking.
Weghorst should start due to Martial’s lack of match fitness, and his statistics this season when compared to the Frenchman provide a case for him to be given his debut in a match that needs to be won for an implausible title push.
Martial and Weghorst are diametrically opposed players. The latter is a conventional center-forward, a throwback to the goalscorer of yesteryear, as seen by his Besiktas statistics, where he averaged more shot assists and shots per 90 minutes than Martial.
Ten Hag praised Martial’s pressuring, but he didn’t make a single recovery in the opponent’s half in the Premier League this season, whilst Weghorst averaged 0.63 recoveries per 90 minutes, emphasizing his effort off the ball.
Weghorst is vigilant when pushing and, naturally, outperforms Martial in aerial duels. Weghorst has averaged 7.16 aerial duels per 90 this season and that’s more than double what his new partner has managed (2.92 per 90).
Rashford, Antony, and Garnacho should all benefit from playing with Weghorst, who will provide United with a focal point in the box. He’s not going to drift between the lines like Martial, but he’ll be located on the six-yard line.
Weghorst was not a particularly thrilling addition, but he was a wise choice.