Ten Hag must consider starting Elanga over Ronaldo in Manchester derby

Erik ten Hag must be considering starting Anthony Elanga over Cristiano Ronaldo in Manchester derby
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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag must consider starting Anthony Elanga against Cristiano Ronaldo in Sunday’s Manchester derby.

With Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial both seemingly losing their races to be fit for the Etihad Stadium clash, the Dutchman has a wide selection to make.

If Rashford and Martial fail to demonstrate their fitness ahead of the Manchester City clash, most United supporters will expect Ronaldo to start his third straight game under the former Ajax manager.

But we’re investigating why the 52-year-old is likely to consider recalling Elanga in place of the 37-year-old.

Ten Hag must consider starting Anthony Elanga against Cristiano Ronaldo in Manchester derby

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With Casemiro’s wait for his first Premier League start likely to continue given Scott McTominay’s impressive form, the starting line-up against Pep Guardiola’s Citizens is pretty much self-determined.

The only real question mark is who will lead the line in Rashford and Martial’s absences with Antony and Jadon Sancho on either side.

Despite scoring the spot 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 period of his illustrious career.

Despite playing 180 minutes for Portugal which will benefit his fitness, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner uncharacteristically missed some big chances during the international break.

In his last 11 games for club and country, Ronaldo has scored the only goal from the penalty spot in Moldova.

Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

Ronaldo has posted incredible numbers throughout his career, but even he’s looking human at the moment and seems low on confidence for probably the first time ever.

Ever since Ten Hag took the reins at Old Trafford, there have been question marks over whether he could adapt and embrace the intense demands of the Dutchman long before the United number seven dropped the bombshell that he wanted to join a Champions League club .

Ronaldo was never known for pressing or urging even when he was at the peak of his powers, so it’s a non-starter that he becomes a ‘pressing monster’ in the twilight of his career.

Portugal’s international captain has started all four of United’s Premier League wins this season on the bench.

Ten Hag used a fast, versatile and fluid front line in the big victories against Liverpool and Arsenal.

But going to the Etihad Stadium is another matter entirely and City are likely to dominate possession.

Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

If Ten Hag wants to adopt a high-octane pressing approach against the man he worked with at Bayern Munich, Elanga could well be given preference over Ronaldo.

The Sweden international would press and hustle City from the front, which would allow his United team-mates to follow suit.

He also has the pace to run the channels and give United an out ball. Ronaldo is by no means a bore, he still has that explosive movement but that’s at close range.

Elanga’s start would also allow the 20-year-old to swap positions with Sancho.

Despite Ronaldo not wishing to fulfill that role, United have looked better coming off the bench, but on all four occasions the former Juventus man has stepped into the fray, Ten Hag’s side have been in the lead each time.

Dropping Ronaldo for Elanga with Martial and Rashford would be a huge slap in the face for one of the greatest players of all time, but Ten Hag has shown throughout his tenure that he will always put the team first.

Passionate football fan who completed an NCTJ-accredited Diploma in Multimedia Sports Journalism in 2016.

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