football

Erik ten Hag: Manchester United manager insists they 'don't train too hard' amid ongoing injury crisis

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has hit back at suggestions his training methods may be behind the club's injury crisis, insisting they "don't train too hard".

United have been besieged by injuries throughout a difficult second season for Ten Hag, with defenders Victor Lindelof and Lisandro Martinez the latest players to pick up issues.

Lindelof is set to be out for at least a month with a hamstring injury picked up in the 1-1 draw at Brentford, while Martinez faces a similar time out after sustaining a calf complaint in training.

The pair's setbacks have raised further questions about United's injury problems this season, with a report last month from the Manchester Evening News claiming a minority of Man Utd players are concerned about the running demands from Ten Hag.

Asked whether his training sessions are too intense, the Dutchman responded: "No, we don't train too hard. We need to be fit.

"The standards in this league, you need to be fit, otherwise you can't match the standards that are required in a game. We don't train too hard."

Questioned about whether he should have employed a fitness coach, he replied: "No, we have good departments.

"We have good people around with a lot of knowledge, based on data and we make our decisions."

United have had 30 injuries that have led to one or more games being missed, with only Newcastle having more (32), according to Premier Injuries data.

The Red Devils' ongoing injury crisis comes despite the club set to play fewer games than last season when they played 62 matches in all competitions.

Asked if the injuries are more concerning considering the lighter schedule, Ten Hag replied: "No, because I know it still has an effect.

"The huge number of games we had in the last 18 months still has an impact on our squad and the accumulation on the players."

He added: "You need very robust players - that is the requirement.

"When we were around Christmas with a lot of injuries and then you have to bring them back, but in the moment they are free from injury they are not going to be match fit. They are not straight back into the form, that also needs a couple of games before you get back in the rhythm.

"I think we have more players who are very robust, as Bruno [Fernandes] is, but that is the type of player you need."

United have lost players for a combined 1,136 days this season, the seventh-most in the Premier League, according to Premier Injuries data.

Questioned about his confidence that a similar injury crisis will not happen again next season, the 54-year-old said: "You can't 100 per cent avoid this. It's impossible. It depends on certain effects.

"We have national teams five times a year - you give the players away and you don't have any impact. It's not completely true - with some national teams we have very good connections and we manage the programs. But there are others that do what they want and you don't have anything in hand on what they're doing there."

Raphael Varane and Jonny Evans look set to bolster Manchester United's beleaguered backline at Chelsea on Thursday.

Ten Hag is hopeful Varane - who went off at half-time in Saturday's draw at Brentford - and recently-injured Evans will be fit for the game at Stamford Bridge.

"No more issues - we don't need [any more]!" the United manager said ahead of Thursday's match. "On the frontline and in midfield we are OK, we have options there.

"But in the backline we have a lack of options, but the good thing is back in training this afternoon is Raphael Varane and Jonny Evans. And Harry Maguire was already yesterday back in training."

Asked if they are any closer to knowing why they are getting so many issues, Ten Hag said: "Yeah, we have an idea but we will work on that. I think internally we will deal with it."

Ten Hag rejected the chance to expand on what that "idea" was but was more forthcoming about the strains on top teams right now.

"You can't prevent," the United boss said. "You see it's not only us who've had this.

"The standards of the Premier League from an intensity perspective are so high, the overload in the schedule, also international football is so huge.

"We have all internationals in our squad and you see it's not only us - City, Liverpool and Newcastle have the problems, so there are many other teams.

"In this moment, especially the defending department, but in the midfield and frontline the players are available."

April 4 - Chelsea (a)

April 7 - Liverpool (h), live on Sky Sports

April 13 - Bournemouth (a), live on Sky Sports

April 21 - Coventry (Wembley), FA Cup semi-final

April 24 - Sheff Utd (h)

April 27 - Burnley (h)