Erik ten Hag uncertain on the fitness of three Man Utd players ahead of Aston Villa clash
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The trio missed Manchester United’s trip to Spain for their match with Real Sociedad on Thursday, an encounter the Red Devils won 1-0 but failed to take top spot in the Europa League. Sancho was absent through illness while Antony has missed the last two with a slight knock.
As for Martial, he returned to training this week but is still regaining his fitness following a back injury he sustained nearly four weeks ago, an issue that meant he was deemed not ready for the match with Sociedad. And speaking ahead of Sunday’s trip to Villa Park, Ten Hag revealed he is unsure whether the three attackers will return in time for the weekend.
“It’s difficult to say in this moment. I have to talk with the medical and performance [teams],” the Dutchman said.
“They did a programme in Manchester. I have to hear how their progress was and if they can be available for Sunday’s match.”
While Ten Hag is uncertain about the availability of Sancho, Antony and Martial, one player he definitely won’t be able to rely on is Bruno Fernandes. The Portugal midfielder picked up his fifth booking of the season in last weekend’s win over West Ham United, meaning he is suspended for Sunday.
Fernandes hasn’t missed a minute so far in the Premier League this term and Ten Hag will have to find an alternative way of playing against Villa. “We have to replace Bruno, that is quite clear,” he said on Thursday.
“We have to see how we replace him, we have to think about that. But after the [Sociedad] game I have to think about that. I have a minimum of one night to think about that.”
Who will play at centre-back?
Ten Hag is expected to choose between Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof to partner Lisandro Martinez at centre-back on Sunday. Lindelof returned to the starting XI on Thursday after missing last weekend’s win over West Ham due to illness.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference, it was suggested to the United manager that Maguire is now third choice at the heart of defence. However, Ten Hag rejected that notion and claimed he hasn’t decided who will play at centre-back against Villa.
“I have to think about that,” he explained. “I have to think about it because Aston Villa is a difficult one. We don’t know [how they’ll play]. It’s a new manager in so I have to have a look and analyse their team, then we have a choice.
“But I think Licha [Martinez] and Victor played really well together over some more games, but I think also Licha and Harry against West Ham last week kept a clean sheet and also did really well. So it’s a choice we have to make. But when I choose one, it is nothing against the other.”