Erik ten Hag’s Man Utd promotion shows clear plan for international break

Manchester United may not have had a Premier League game this weekend, but Erik ten Hag was busy nonetheless.

The United boss made a visit to Altrincham to watch the club’s under-21s face West Ham on Friday night, shortly after arriving back from Moldova following the 2-0 win over FC Sheriff on Thursday evening. His presence was felt at the match, which ended in a 1-1 draw.

United’s under-21 boss Mark Dempsey admitted afterwards that some of his players “went under”, with the eyes of the first-team coach on them, but it was still a useful trip for Ten Hag, who is clearly keen to assess the quality of the club’s young players. The Dutchman made his name at Ajax, where he brought through several players from the Amsterdam club’s famed academy – so it is no surprise that he wants to repeat the trick at United.

“It’s good for him to come and see us,” Dempsey told the MEN. “It’s healthy for everyone at the football club. It shows that he’s interested, for the boys it’s motivational. Without naming them, every player that has been with them [first-team] has come back with more belief, more energy.

“You can see that they’ve learned certain things. Of course, there’s nothing better than working with those players, they are your role models are your benchmark you know you’ve got to get to. You only ever improve by being challenged.”

Ten Hag made the trip to Moss Lane with his assistant manager Mitchell Van der Gaag and technical director Darren Fletcher. Among those who the trio had their eyes on was forward Charlie McNeill, who travelled to Moldova with the first team, and midfielder Charlie Savage, who was then promoted into United’s first-team training on Saturday.

HAVE YOUR SAY! Which Manchester United youngsters could break into Erik ten Hag’s side this season? Comment below.

Charlie Savage of Manchester United U21s

Charlie Savage was promoted to Manchester United’s first team training on the weekend
John Peters/Getty Images)

Ten Hag has already shown he is not afraid to make big decisions. Cristiano Ronaldo and his huge ego have frequently been left on the substitutes’ bench, while Casemiro’s reputation and price tag did not equal an instant place in the side.

It isn’t hard to imagine Ten Hag throwing youngsters into his side if he feels they are ready, much like Mikel Arteta did with 15-year-old Ethan Nwaneri in Arsenal ’s 3-0 win over Brentford on Sunday.

Now is the perfect time to have caught Ten Hag’s eye too. Not only was United’s match against Leeds United on Sunday postponed due to the lack of available police ahead of the Queen’s state funeral on Monday, there is now a two-week break for international fixtures. Many of United’s first-team stars will now be jetting off around the world to join their respective national teams, but training will continue at Carrington.

Ten Hag will need more players to continue the work over the next fortnight and players like McNeill and Savage can tick those boxes. “It’s very useful,” Ten Hag said of the international break after the win over Sheriff. “We have many meetings, we have to improve the structures in and around the club.

“We will also look to the window in January or next summer already to improve our way of playing by making plans. Of course, [you get these] periods after a game, but we have to be ready for that and many players, let’s say 90 per cent, are away. But the others, we will train properly and for the rest we have to prepare very well. I hope that everyone stays fit and return back healthy and then we have to get into attack.”

Opportunity awaits for United’s youngsters. Let’s see if they can grab it.

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