Erik ten Hag has come under hot water this season not just because of the bad results this season, but also due to some head-scratching tactical choices.

Be it his high-press, low-block defence leaving the midfield open or the chaotic style of attack leading to collapses near the end, his job has looked under threat.

Another pain point has been the longer leash afforded to some players over others, leading to allegations of favouritism.

However, Ten Hag, speaking to the media in the embargoed section before the Burnley game, strongly denied such allegations.

He laid out the plan for Amad to get reintroduced to the squad and pointed how Antony has been dropped often this season as well.

He said: “First of all, Amad had a very bad injury, so for a long period in this season he was out and wasn’t available. But he returned and needed some time to get back, to get match fit. He needed training and, in some areas, he needed to catch up. So it’s fair now that he gets his minutes.

“He has to keep fighting, set his performances in the minutes he gets – not gets, but deserves, and from there you get your position in the starting line-up. Amad is doing really well, but we have a lot of competition in the front line and I know, with front players especially, you have to give them trust.

“But they also have to prove it and there comes a certain point when things turn around and go against them. If you assess, you say Antony played a very good game against Chelsea, for instance, but then from a low perspective I didn’t play him against Liverpool.

“He also played very well against Newport, but then I put him on the bench in the game after. So there’s always a thin line between giving them trust, but there comes a point where other players will get more chances, that’s clear.”

His comments hint at Amad finally getting to start the game as he the likes of Marcus Rashford are remain sidelined.

Injuries have been the biggest theme of this Manchester United season and Ten Hag once again stressed that sentiment.

The Dutchman said that United’s season would have turned out much better if not for injuries.

Ten Hag said: “This year we stand still, but when everyone is available, definitely we’re competing for the top-four, I’m confident of that.

“Although I have to say it’s not just a two or three-horse race in the Premier League. There’s Villa, there’s Spurs, there’s Newcastle. So many good teams, who all can compete. We’re one of them but we’re not, at this moment, in a position to compete No.1 or No.2, that’s a fact.”

Ten Hag also backed Rashford to rediscover the form that made him a feared forward last season while acknowledging his poor displays this season.

He said that he has held discussions with Rashford about his poor work rate.

Ten Hag said: “I think Marcus Rashford is capable every season of scoring 25 to 35 goals. He has the assets to do that. I am 100 per cent confident of this.

“The other thing, yeah, when he is not doing the right stuff out of possession I will confront him with this. Yeah, I will give arguments and also we use data. I think that (such discussions) is an internal matter.”

In a thinly veiled plea to the board, he stressed that the biggest learning from this season has been the importance of strengthening the window beyond the first team.

He said: “But we can come closer if we make a good window. We have to strengthen in key positions and also in the depth of the squad, which is one of the lessons from this season.”

It remains to be seen if Ten Hag will be the one doing the strengthening but the manager remains assured that the glut of injuries is the only reason why United struggled this season.

Will INEOS agree? A pivotal summer awaits at Old Trafford for everyone, from the players to the manager and the new ownership.

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