Football: No one assured of starting spot under demanding ten Hag, says Shaw

Manchester United's Luke Shaw in action with Newcastle United's Miguel Almiron in a their EPL clash on Sunday. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON – “If you are not playing well, then you won’t play.”

That is the belief and the demand that Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has when it comes to picking his best starting 11 for every game, according to defender Luke Shaw.

Speaking ahead of United’s English Premier League home clash against Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday, the left-back said that the Dutchman has no qualms about dropping out-of-form players and that, unlike in previous seasons, no one is guaranteed a starting spot.

Cristiano Ronaldo, United’s top scorer last season with 24 goals, and captain Harry Maguire have both been dropped for extended spells in the current campaign.

Ten Hag was making sure all his players give their 100 per cent every day to try to secure a spot in the side, Shaw said.

“The good thing with this manager is that if you’re not playing well then you won’t play,” he said.

“In the past, that’s not been the case but the good thing about this manager is that he’s keeping everyone on their toes. He makes sure that everyone is 100 per cent every day. If you’re not at it then you won’t play. That’s a positive thing.”

Ten Hag has, on many occasions in his first season as the United boss, emphasised that he has a “squad” and not just the 11 who starts every match – meaning that he is not afraid to rotate his players whenever needed.

Shaw has also found himself benched this season.

He was dropped after back-to-back defeats by Brighton & Hove Albion and Brentford in August but has worked his way back into the side, starting their last two league games.

“To be honest I didn’t really need (ten Hag) to say anything to me. I knew the first two games were nowhere near good enough. I completely understood that it was my time to come out of the team (for Tyrell Malacia),” Shaw added.

“The results were bad, my performances were not good enough.

“I just had to keep training hard every day so the manager could see how hard I was working.”

United, who are fifth in the table before Brighton took on Nottingham Forest on Tuesday, host third-placed Tottenham with playmaker Christian Eriksen a doubt after illness and striker Anthony Martial still battling a back injury.

Antonio Conte’s Spurs have injury issues as well, although he has eased fears Richarlison could miss the World Cup due to a calf injury.

The Brazilian forward limped off during a 2-0 win over his former club Everton on Saturday and a tearful post-match interview suggested his World Cup was at risk.

However, Conte is hopeful of having him back before he heads off to Qatar, although he will be out for Wednesday’s trip.

“He needs a bit of time to recover and then to be fit. I hope for him to play other games with us before the World Cup but for sure the injury is not so serious,” he said.

Richarlison limped off during a 2-0 win over his former club Everton on Saturday. PHOTO: REUTERS

Richarlison’s absence has left Conte short on forward options other than Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, but Dejan Kulusevski could make his return from injury.

Conte said he would like to stick to his preferred 3-4-3 system against ten Hag’s team despite the injury to Richarlison, who played alongside Kane and Son in a front three against Everton.

“I prefer to play with a 3-4-3 but we’ll see. In my idea we’ve worked a lot with this system,” he added.

“Lucas Moura is recovering from his injury, (Bryan) Gil is making progress and then I have Ivan Perisic who can play like a striker.”

Victory against United will move Spurs to within a point of Premier League leaders Arsenal. AFP, REUTERS

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