Erik ten Hag believes the boos from Manchester United supporters over his decision to replace Rasmus Hojlund during the 3-1 defeat to Brighton at Old Trafford are a ‘positive’ sign.
Hojlund was handed his first start for United following his £72 million move from Atalanta in the summer and was denied a goal in the opening 45 minutes as a tight VAR call ruled that Marcus Rashford had taken the ball out of play in the build up.
Ten Hag’s side were trailing by two goals when Hojlund was replaced by Anthony Martial in the 64th minute, a decision which was met with loud boos and jeers inside Old Trafford.
United went on to lose the game 3-1, which means they have suffered three defeats in their opening five Premier League games.
But Ten Hag has defended his decision to substitute Hojlund just over the hour mark, insisting that the Denmark international needs to be carefully managed back to full fitness.
Ten Hag said when asked about the boos towards his decision to replace Hojlund as cited by Sports Central: ‘I think it was positive. ‘You see the fans from the first moment at Old Trafford, the reception was great. He performed very well. ‘I think it’s good that they gave this signal, this message. It’ll give him belief, Rasmus. But everyone knows he came with a small issue. We built him over last three, four weeks, he’s not ready for full game. ‘We have many games to play in a short period, we also have to build his fitness.’
Asked if the negative reaction could be perceived as being towards Martial, Ten Hag replied: ‘I think it was because Rasmus Hojlund came off. I don’t want to discuss that. ‘I think Martial last year every time when he played he had very positive effect on our games. I think we almost did not lose a game with Anthony Martial on the pitch, so if that’s the fact then I don’t understand, because when he is fit he definitely contributes. ‘At this moment he’s not top fit and he’s improving. I’m sure, when he is 100 per cent fit he will contribute again like last season. ‘He has to make also his own luck and be available and be consistently available and then his form will be better. Every time last year when he was playing he affected our game in a positive way. I hope he stays fit and he will contribute to our game.’
Asked if he regretted taking Hojlund off, Ten Hag said: ‘Yeah but if he gets injured because he is not capable to play 90 minutes then we are much further away from where we want to go.’.