fbpx Skip to main content

Erik ten Hag says he can finally select his strongest Manchester United team for the first time during his two-year Old Trafford reign.

United return to Premier League action at Wolves on Thursday buoyed by Casemiro, Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw all getting game time in Sunday’s 4-2 FA Cup win at Newport after being injured for much of the season.

It was the first time the trio had started together since the second game of the season at Tottenham in August.

Harry Maguire also made a late cameo from the bench in South Wales – his first appearance since December 12 following a groin problem – while Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana will be available at Molineux after returning from the Africa Cup of Nations.

Whether Marcus Rashford will feature against Wolves after missing the Newport cup tie remains to be seen.

Rashford reported ill on Friday after reportedly spending the previous evening at a Belfast nightclub, with Ten Hag declaring the issue an “internal matter” that he would deal with.

But asked if the Wolves game could be the first time he played his strongest team, Ten Hag said: “It could be, potentially yeah.

“Maybe for the first time as long as I was manager that we can pick a team from a squad that is probably the strongest.”

Nottingham Forest v Manchester United – Premier League – City Ground
Marcus Rashford missed Manchester United’s FA Cup victory at Newport after reporting ill on Friday (Richard Sellers/PA)

On the return of key players, Ten Hag added: “I believe it is very important. Now they have to step up to match fitness 100 per cent.

“This game definitely helped, but we know also when we go into the Premier League the intensity is higher and they are forced to high levels.

“They had minutes in the week against Burnley. Now they have more minutes.

“This game was very helpful to make the next step and to be ready for Thursday.”

Antony scored in the 3-1 midweek friendly defeat to Burnley, which was played behind closed doors at United’s Carrington training ground.

Newport County v Manchester United – Emirates FA Cup – Fourth Round – Rodney Parade
Antony scored his first Manchester United goal since April in the 4-2 FA Cup win at Newport (Nick Potts/PA)

The Brazilian followed that up by setting up Bruno Fernandes for the opener in Newport before ending a 31-game scoreless streak stretching back to last April when he made it 3-2.

Ten Hag said: “Antony had the assist on the first goal for Bruno and a goal.

“So end product, that is what we demand from him.

“The rest of his job should also be proper and that was the case.”

Wigan Athletic v Manchester United – Emirates FA Cup – Third Round – DW Stadium
Andre Onana will be back in goal for Manchester United at Wolves after being away on international duty for Cameroon (Martin Rickett/PA)

Newport manager Graham Coughlan, a United fan, admitted he was dreaming of an Old Trafford replay after the Exiles fought back from 2-0 down to level just after the break.

That money-spinning return was not to be as United booked a fifth-round date at Bristol City or Nottingham Forest, but the Irishman believes a memorable cup run can spark Newport’s bid to climb from 16th in Sky Bet League Two.

Coughlan said: “I don’t want this to be nearly, I want it to be the catalyst and the start of a little push, to gather as many points as we can before now and the end of the season.

“We’ve had a real tough time at the club with injuries, but we’ve got a few coming back.

“We can take that performance, that character and that resilience and build on it.”