Erik Ten Hag has praised the progress made by Harry Maguire despite the Manchester United captain continuing to play a bit part role.
The central defender made only his 11th start of the season in the 1-0 victory over Real Betis in the Europa League on Thursday, with just five of those starts coming in the Premier League.
Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane have been Ten Hag’s first-choice partnership, with Victor Lindelof also providing competition along with full-back Luke Shaw.
Ten Hag said: “I am really happy with the progress Harry is making, he is more dominant and dictating, taking more initiative in the training space. I think also we have seen it in Seville against Betis where he showed leadership, especially in aspects of initiative and dictation of the game.”
Winger Facundo Pellistri made his first start for the club in Seville after a lively European debut in the home leg.
The 21-year-old Uruguayan again impressed and could be given more chances with Alejandro Garnacho joining the injured list, while Antony is a doubt for Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Fulham through illness.
Ten Hag sent a warning to Pellistri that he must seize every chance he gets if he is to carve out a future for himself at Old Trafford.
“You have to deserve it and you have to gather it by yourself,” said the Dutchman.
“We will help him with the culture, the way of play, the coaches, really working hard for them. But the players have to take their chances, they have to deserve their chances by performing every day on and off the pitch.
“He has the abilities to do it, like others coming up from the youth like Garnacho, like Kobbie Mainoo. Pellistri is also one of them, and there are more who can do it. But you have to contribute to the team.
“Manchester United is not a place where we can have the patience to try one for 10 games – you have to perform.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 16, 2023
Ten Hag insisted, though, that his patience is not yet wearing thin with Anthony Martial, who is still not ready to return from his latest injury lay-off.
“I don’t think it is the right moment if that would be the case,” said the United boss. “I believe in him. Every time he is available, he really gave a good contribution to the team performance.
“The level of the team is upgraded the moment he is available. We are just working with him to get fit and to be available.”
Asked if the Frenchman should be prepared to push his body a bit more, Ten Hag said: “Every person is different, so you have to treat everyone differently. This process you have to take really carefully. I do everything to get him available.”