ERIK TEN HAG faces a massive gamble with his World Cup stars as he continues his quest for Manchester United’s first trophy in five years.
The Dutchman must put together a patched-up side for Wednesday night’s visit of Championship leaders Burnley in an EFL Cup fourth round return to action.
PAErik ten Hag could have some tricky selections to make[/caption]
GettyLisandro Martinez will not be available for Manchester United[/caption]
With nine of his squad only returning from international duty for a first training session on Tuesday morning Ten Hag will be scratching his head on whether to risk any of them.
But Harry Maguire who played almost every minute of England’s heartbreak campaign could be one of them.
And the Three Lions centre half – who Ten Hag has told can leave if he is not happy to fight for his place – may well be up for the gamble.
The £85M star is certain to start United’s first Premier League game back against Nottingham Forest on December 27.
That is because Argentina’s Lisandro Martinez and Frenchman Raphael Varane are not due back for a further week, resting following Sunday’s heart-stopping World Cup final triumph led by triumphant Lionel Messi.
Maguire, Luke Shaw, Marcus Rashford, Diogo Dalot, Bruno Fernandes, Tyrell Malacia, Casemiro, Fred and Antony are all back, however.
And Ten Hag insists he will consider them all.
He stressed as the World Cup action unfolded : “We have a plan, we have prepared the players with what the plan is so there can’t be any confusion about what the programme is.
“We make the players aware of the fact that, after you are out of the World Cup, you have to return to the club and the league immediately goes on.
“You have to be ready for that but I think our players are used to it.
“Our players are winners and they were battling for the World Cup and in the moment they are out and hopefully one is the winner, but then they have to deal with that.
“With the success they have, or the defeats, they have to deal with it and of course they have to be ready for another challenge.”
How ready they will be will be a huge matter of concern for Ten Hag.
For instance Brazilian contingent Fred, Antony and Casemiro were knocked out of the World Cup 11 days ago, so won’t have trained for 12 days until Tuesday’s return. The quintet of England and Portugal players were beaten 10 days ago, so have gone 11 days without a training session.
Ten Hag knows throwing any of the nine into a clash with Vincent Kompany’s ambitious Clarets could threaten injury.
But with his numbers so badly depleted he may have no choice and instead name a scratch team with bigger, returning stars on the bench awaiting any SOS call in the game.
There might even be a return for forgotten man Phil Jones to play alongside Victor Lindelof at the back.
He hasn’t played a minute under new boss Ten Hag and managed only five appearances last season.
Another alternative to starting Maguire would be to play midfielder Scott McTominay as a centre-half – a role he has occupied for Scotland.
That would mean bringing in fresh-faced and mainly untried wannabees like Zidane Iqbal who has yet to play competitively for the United first team.
At least Ten Hag can rely on left wing prodigy Alejandro Garnacho up front while Anthony Martial, now his side’s No1 striker, will face Burnley.
GettyAlejandro Garnacho will hope to pick up from where he left off last month[/caption]