DANNY MURPHY: Erik ten Hag should be relieved outcasts have stayed

DANNY MURPHY: Erik ten Hag should be relieved outcasts have stayed as Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay prove class as best performers at Craven Cottage during Man United’s 1-0 win over Fulham

  • Pressure has been mounting on the former Ajax coach after a poor run of results
  • Maguire and McTominay were central to Man United’s victory over Fulham 
  •  Kai Havertz is broken man at Arsenal: Listen to the debate on It’s All Kicking Off

Erik ten Hag can count himself lucky that two players who appeared on their way out of Manchester United were key in buying him a little bit of breathing space.

Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay were United’s best performers at Craven Cottage on what was an otherwise another bang average performance from Ten Hag’s team.

They were the pair who really dug in and kept United in it during some difficult periods so Bruno Fernandes’ goal could nick the points late on.

While the manager’s £85million signing Antony failed to deliver again and was booed when taken off, Maguire and McTominay played as if they had a point to prove.

Both have had to wait a long time to be included in Ten Hag’s starting XI, but being kept on the sidelines can act as motivation to some players.

Erik ten Hag looks on during Man United’s match against Fulham at Craven Cottage

Harry Maguire produced a great display alongside Johnny Evans to secure United’s win

To be fair to Ten Hag, he doesn’t strike me as the type who will be embarrassed by seeing his two ‘outcasts’ do so well. He’ll be pleased. And so he should be. Three points yesterday was hugely important first step towards restoring a bit of confidence after two heavy defeats at Old Trafford.

When you’re growing up, you’re told to do everything you can to keep the shirt when given the opportunity, and that’s what Maguire and McTominay did.

Both should now be certain starters again in Copenhagen in the Champions League in midweek.

We hear a lot in the modern game about technical ability, but being resolute is an under-rated quality and still very important.

Maguire, in particular, has shown great determination to overcome setbacks. Yesterday, I thought he was going to be substituted after getting a couple of whacks. But he stayed on and played really well, both defensively and in his use of the ball.

Besides them, and Fernandes’ skill to sit two defenders down before firing the winner, United’s overall display still posed more questions than answers.

They were below-par against a team who themselves have been struggling. United lacked balance again and got lucky, with Andre Onana making the better saves.

Antony gives them a problem on the right. He was signed for a lot of money but he’s not creating, scoring or working hard enough defensively. I don’t think he helps himself with his body language. He comes across as a bit stroppy when things don’t fall into place. My message would be to just keep doing the work.

It is easier for a creative player to go through a bad spell when the team around him is playing well, but Antony has to do more and it’ll be interesting if he features in Ten Hag’s next team sheet in Denmark.

Fortunately, Fernandes did show a great bit of quality to score the winner, which may silence a few of his critics, including me!

It has been a wretched season for United and this slenderest of wins can’t be considered a turning point. Ten Hag will now know he can rely on Maguire and McTominay. He should be hugely relieved they decided to stay at Old Trafford.

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