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Record with fit squad 'a sign for Ten Hag to cling on to'

Lisandro Martinez lifts the FA Cup
[PA Media]

Erik ten Hag should point to Manchester United's competitiveness with a fully fit squad as a reason for him to remain as manager, New York Times journalist Rory Smith has said.

Ten Hag's position has come under increasing scrutiny in the closing weeks of the season and his future is still to be decided, despite leading United to FA Cup victory on Saturday.

United have been without key players at various points of the season. As an example, centre-back Lisandro Martinez was limited to just 14 club appearances in 2023-24 because of injuries, but he played a key role in United's win over Manchester City at Wembley.

Smith told BBC Radio 5 Live's Monday Night Club: "If you're Erik ten Hag going into your performance review with Ineos, the first thing you do surely is say when he had our two first-choice centre-halves fit, we beat Manchester City.

"For all of the criticism United have taken this season - which has, despite what Ten Hag says, been justified by Alan Shearer's observation that they finished eighth and if Manchester United finish eighth, they get criticised - but against the other teams around them in the Champions League spots, they haven't been terrible.

"They didn't lose to Liverpool and they beat Aston Villa home and away. They lost to Arsenal twice, but in the home game a couple of weeks ago they weren't played off the park.

"There are signs you can cling on to if you're Ten Hag. I don't think it will make a difference because I don't think he'll be manager next season, but the first thing you say is as soon as we had something approaching a fully fit team, suddenly we can live with these other sides that we're trying to catch."

Watch the full episode of Monday Night Club on BBC iPlayer or listen to the podcast on BBC Sounds

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