Erik ten Hag must be considering starting Anthony Elanga over Cristiano Ronaldo in Manchester derby
With Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial both seemingly losing their race to be fit for the clash at the Etihad Stadium, the Dutchman has a big selection call to make.
If Rashford and Martial both fail to prove their fitness before the clash against Manchester City then most United supporters will expect Ronaldo to start his third game in a row under the former Ajax boss.
But we explore why the 52-year-old will likely be considering recalling Elanga in place of the 37-year-old.
Ten Hag must be considering starting Anthony Elanga over Cristiano Ronaldo in Manchester derby
With Casemiro’s wait for his maiden Premier League start likely to go on due to Scott McTominay’s imperious form, the starting line-up against Pep Guardiola’s Citizens pretty much picks itself.
The only real question mark is who leads the line in Rashford and Martial’s absence with Antony and Jadon Sancho either side of them.
Despite getting off the mark for the season from the penalty spot in United’s 2-0 Europa League win against Sheriff Tiraspol last time out, Ronaldo is arguably in the midst of the most difficult and challenging spell of his glittering career.
Despite playing 180 minutes for Portugal, which will benefit his fitness levels, during the international break, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner uncharacteristically missed some big chances.
In his last 11 games for club and country, Ronaldo’s only goal came in Moldova from the penalty spot.
Ronaldo has posted incredible numbers throughout his career, but even he looks human right now and probably for the first time ever looks short of confidence.
Ever since Ten Hag took the reins at Old Trafford, there were question marks well before United’s number seven dropped the bombshell that he wanted to join a Champions League club, as to whether he could adapt and adopt the Dutchman’s intense demands.
Ronaldo has never been known for his pressing or harrying, even when he was at the peak of his powers, so him becoming a ‘pressing monster’ in the twilight stages of his career is a non-starter.
Portugal’s national captain has started all four of United’s Premier League wins this season on the bench.
Ten Hag deployed a pacey, versatile and fluid frontline in the big wins against Liverpool and Arsenal.
But going to the Etihad Stadium is a completely different proposition and City are likely to dominate possession.
If Ten Hag wants to adopt a high octane pressing approach against the man he worked alongside with at Bayern Munich, then Elanga could well be given the nod over Ronaldo.
The Sweden international would hassle and press City from the front which would allow his United teammates to follow suit.
He also has the pace to run the channels and give United an out ball. Ronaldo is by no means a slouch, he still possesses that explosive movement, but that’s over a short distance.
Starting Elanga would also allow the 20-year-old to interchange positions with Sancho.
While it isn’t a role that Ronaldo wants to fulfil, United have looked better when he’s come off the bench, however, on all four times the former Juventus man has entered the fray, Ten Hag’s side have been in the lead on each occasion.
Dropping Ronaldo for Elanga with both Martial and Rashford would be a big kick in the teeth for one of the greatest players of all time, but Ten Hag has already shown during his tenure that he will always put the team first.