Erik ten Hag reveals what’s to blame for Manchester United’s injury problems

Manchester United have been bitten by the injury bug  (REUTERS)
Manchester United have been bitten by the injury bug (REUTERS)

Erik ten Hag defended his training schedule and his decision not to bring a fitness coach with him to Old Trafford as he blamed Manchester United’s injury problems on an accumulation of fatigue from his first 18 months in charge and international football.

United have had senior players sidelined by 53 injuries or illnesses already this season and Ten Hag believes he needs more footballers with the robustness of captain Bruno Fernandes, who has played 98 of the 103 games in his reign.

Ten Hag believes the workload on top footballers is too high and warned that standards are dropping when key players are ruled out because of injuries.

But he insisted United do not work too hard at their Carrington training ground to then make them more susceptible to injuries.

“We don’t train too hard,” he insisted. “We need to be fit. With the standards in this league, you need to be fit. Otherwise you can’t match the standards you are required in a game. We don’t train too hard.”

Ten Hag brought assistant Mitchell van der Gaag with him from Ajax and also brought in Steve McClaren and Benni McCarthy to join his backroom staff but did not take a specialist fitness coach when appointed in 2022.

He feels that is the correct decision, saying: “We have good departments, we have good people around with a lot of knowledge. Based on data we make our decisions.”

Mitchell van der Gaag (left) and Steve McClaren (right) assist Erik ten Hag at Manchester United (The FA via Getty Images)
Mitchell van der Gaag (left) and Steve McClaren (right) assist Erik ten Hag at Manchester United (The FA via Getty Images)

United have only played 13 games in 2024 after being knocked out of Europe but Ten Hag believes they are still paying a price for playing 62 matches last season. “I know that it still has an effect, the huge amount of games we had in the last 18 months,” he explained. “That still has an impact on our squad, the accumulation on the players.”

Captain Fernandes has been an exception in the United squad in appearing almost immune to injury and Ten Hag, who will be without at least six of his squad against Chelsea on Thursday, said: “You need very robust players. That is the requirement. I think we have more players who are very robust like Bruno is. But that is the type of player you need.”

Ten Hag feels international football is part of the problem when players get hurt, noticing champions Manchester City lost two defenders playing for England, and urging national teams to take more care.

“The players get overloaded and can’t bring the performances anymore,” he said. “We are already over the point where we demand what we want from our top players.

“You see this weekend, City is playing without [Kyle] Walker, without [John] Stones. The levels were dropping without them. There was a different team to what we faced. The levels for teams will keep dropping if you keep going in this process we are in, overloading the international competition.

“We have national teams five times a year you give the players away and you don’t have any impact. Some national teams we have very good connections and we manage the programmes but there are also others that do what they want. You don’t have anything in hand on what they are doing there.”