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Erik ten Hag says there is no strain on his relationship with Raphael Varane

by Red Billy

Erik ten Hag insists there is no tension between himself and centre back Raphael Varane, despite reports to the contrary.

Speaking at the pre-match press conference ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League tie with luton Town at Old Trafford, the manager said “Absolutely not. As I said, it is about tactical reasons why I chose these [centre back] partnerships [in recent games]. I think Harry [Maguire] and Jonny [Evans] did well.

“Harry didn’t play a lot last year, so I was very happy with Rapha’s performances. I have always been happy with his performance. But in this moment, Harry is playing very well and there is internal competition. I always said Harry Maguire can do the job — and now he is showing he can do the job.”

On whether he sees Maguire and Varane as a potential partnership, Ten Hag said:

“There are moments in certain games where they can play together and they have already proven they can do it. But the build-up is not that fluid when one of them is playing from the left centre-back position.

“Because I think Licha [Lisandro Martinez], obviously, Luke Shaw, obviously, Jonny Evans and Victor Lindelof are right-footed, but they can play really comfortably with their left and make the right angles. Then you can construct a better formation where you can start to play.”

Asked whether his team can gain momentum, Ten Hag said he believed they can but that it is hard due to not being able to field a consistent team. “Because, so often you have to swap, for instance, the back four. You don’t get the routines in. Especially in such a moment, it’s very important that you have the routines,” he said.

“I think we have such characters who can do it [help inexperienced players], you mentioned Rapha, but I mentioned also Andre Onana, Harry Maguire, Scott McTominay, Bruno of course. We have enough players who have the character and personality to step up, to step forward in such situations and lead the team.”

Asked for his thoughts on having conceded two goals in the last four minutes against FC Copenhagen on Wednesday, the boss remarked “We know we made mistakes in the last minutes. We absolutely have to fix it, we have to do better to protect our area.

“Every time you have to swap your back four it’s difficult. A new keeper coming in and then every time you have to form a new back four. They know rules and the principles, but the routines are not the same, so the communication is so important in such moment. But it’s all split-second decisions, so you need that cooperation 100 per cent and when it doesn’t work, you concede goals on this level.

“I’m very happy with the game in Copenhagen, I think it was our best minutes at 11 v 11. The midfield was also well balanced, but overall there was a good balance in the team. I think we played very well, which is exactly what we wanted to see.”

United will want to get back to winning ways tomorrow in what on paper should be a routine home win against a newly promoted side struggling close to the relegation zone.

Kick-off at Old Trafford is at 3pm.

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