Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag revealed he understood why fans chose to boo his decision to replace Rasmus Hojlund with Anthony Martial during Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at home to Brighton & Hove Albion.
The Red Devils’ poor start to the 2023/24 season continued with a third defeat in five games.
Former United striker Danny Welbeck opened the scoring for the visitors at Old Trafford before Hojlund thought he’d equalised, only for VAR to rule it out having deemed the ball to have gone out of play in the build-up.
Goals from Pascal Gross and Joao Pedro put Brighton three up during the second half, with Hannibal Mejbri grabbing a consolation.
Ten Hag opted to withdraw Hojlund, who was making his first start for United since his summer move from Atalanta, with just over 25 minutes remaining and the hosts already 2-0 down.
Martial was brought on in his place and the substitution was booed by the frustrated Old Trafford crowd.
During his post-match press conference, Ten Hag was asked for his thoughts on such a reaction.
“I think it was positive, you see that the fans in the first moment in Old Trafford, the reception for [Hojlund] was great, I think he performed very well,” he said.
“So I think it’s good that they give him this signal, this message. It will give him belief, Rasmus, but everyone knows he came in with a small issue, we built him over the past three, four weeks, he’s not ready for a whole game. And we have many games to play [at] short notice, so yeah, we have to build him also in fitness.”
It was then put to Ten Hag that the boos may have been for Martial coming on rather than Hojund coming off, but this was disputed by the Dutchman.
“I think it was because Rasmus Hojlund came off,” he stated. “But I don’t want to discuss that, I don’t know.
“But I think Anthony Martial every time, last year, every time when he he had a very positive effect on our games. I think even we almost lost no games with Anthony Martial on the pitch. If that’s the fact, I don’t understand, because when he is fit, he definitely will contribute.
“At this moment, he is not [at] top fitness, but he is improving and I’m sure when he is 100 per cent fit, he will contribute – again, as [he did] last season.”
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