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Erik ten Hag responds to Wayne Rooney's claim Manchester United players are hiding behind injuries: 'They are committed'

Wayne Rooney claimed some United players are hiding behind injuries and are fit enough to play; Erik ten Hag: "You have to see here in Carrington, the players are desperate to play"; watch Manchester United vs Newcastle on Wednesday live on Sky Sports from 7.30pm, kick-off 8pm

Erik ten Hag says his players are fully committed
Image: Erik ten Hag says his players are fully committed

Erik ten Hag has launched a defence of his players, claiming Wayne Rooney was wrong to suggest some members of his Manchester United squad are refusing to play.

Speaking as a special guest on Super Sunday, Rooney said he is "100 per cent" convinced that some of United's injured players are fit enough to play, leaving manager Ten Hag to "take all the stick" for poor performances.

United had 10 injured players for their 1-0 loss at home to Arsenal, which leaves them rooted to eighth place, on course for their lowest-ever Premier League finish and running the risk of missing out on European football altogether next season.

Under Ten Hag this season, United have lost 19 games in all competitions, their most since 1978-79, while Sunday's loss to the Gunners was their ninth loss at Old Trafford this term, their joint-most at home in a season.

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Wayne Rooney believes some current Manchester United players are sitting out injured because they don't want to be criticised

Asked if United's players are currently playing for Ten Hag, Rooney told Sky Sports: "If they are, I don't think they're showing it very well. The performances, and there are some good players in that squad, are way below par.

"As we look at the injuries they've picked up, some of those players can play, 100 per cent.

"When you have the European Championship coming up and an FA Cup final, it's easy for players to stay out of it a little bit, get back for the final and make sure they're ready for the European Championship. I've seen it myself over the years.

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"The players who are injured are not filling themselves in any credit at the minute. The manager is going to take all the stick for that."

But, speaking at his press conference on Tuesday ahead of the visit of Newcastle United to Old Trafford, Ten Hag has insisted that his players will always make themselves available for selection provided they are fit.

"You have to see here in Carrington, the players are desperate to play," said the beleaguered Dutchman.

"Bruno [Fernandes] did a fitness test on Sunday to play and [Marcus] Rashford did everything he could do. Players are desperate to play. [Victor] Lindelof and [Raphael] Varane are training to make themselves available for the final. They do what they can do."

Bruno Fernandes has been missing from the side
Image: Bruno Fernandes has been missing from the side

Ten Hag was without first-team regulars Fernandes, Rashford, Lisandro Martinez, Harry Maguire, Lindelof, Varane, Luke Shaw and Mason Mount, while Tyrell Malacia and Anthony Martial are long-term absentees.

Scott McTominay returned to the starting line-up on Sunday after injury, while Ten Hag revealed earlier in the week that Argentina defender Martinez had been pleading to play after recovering from a calf problem.

Martinez back in contention to face Newcastle

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Erik Ten Hag stubbornly dismissed further questions linking Bruno Fernandes with a summer exit and stressed what a big player he is for Manchester United

Manchester United declined to respond to Rooney's comments when contacted by Sky Sports News. Ten Hag has confirmed that Martinez is set to return to the squad to take on Newcastle.

The key Argentina centre-back has managed just 11 appearances since breaking his metatarsal last April, compounding the issues facing a Red Devils defence beset by injuries.

Martinez underwent foot surgery for the second time in October having returned for the start of the season, then was laid low by knee and calf injuries upon his return.

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Leandro Trossard's strike sunk Manchester United as Arsenal won at Old Trafford

The latter issue has kept Martinez out for the past six weeks, but the centre-back is set to lift United by returning to the squad for their final home match of the season.

"Licha Martinez, I think he will return to the squad," Ten Hag said. "He's done some sessions with us, and we plan for him to be available if this afternoon everything goes right in training. He will return to the squad.

"Then for some other players, we have to see: (Marcus) Rashford, Bruno (Fernandes), Willy Kambwala, if they are fit enough."

Keane: Not a good sign | Merson: Injuries not an excuse

Andre Onana has been kept very busy this season
Image: Andre Onana has been kept very busy this season

Responding to Rooney's claims, Sky Sports pundit Roy Keane said: "That's not a good sign. You hope players who are carrying injuries are desperate to get back to playing football.

"There are always a few players at every club who drag their heels with a few injuries. But other players, certainly ones I played with, they will try and knock a week or two off that.

"That's always a worry, but that goes on at lots of clubs, where they have a lack of confidence and they're out of it, and they don't rush back to be with the team. "

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Wayne Rooney, Roy Keane and Paul Merson give their take on Manchester Utd's terrible season and discuss whether Erik ten Hag is the right person to move the club forward

Former Arsenal midfielder and Sky Sports' Paul Merson also weighed in on the debate, insisting United are still not good enough to compete at the top level with or without a fully-fit squad.

"You can have 10 or 11 injuries, Luton have had 10 or 11 injuries. Chelsea have got 10 or 11 injuries, big players like Reece James who is the first choice and the captain of the club. And Chelsea are still going to finish above them," Merson said.

"Newcastle will come here and win this week. I don't care how many of them get fit next season, there's no way Manchester United will finish above Arsenal next season. No chance. They're 30 points behind.

"There were 15 United staff out there warming up the players - just as many staff as players. If I want to play, the physio isn't going to tell me I'm not playing.

"I played over 700 football matches. If I played 100 games at 100 per cent, I'd be shocked. I was having injections, taking tablets, I wanted to play football. I wasn't going to listen to someone else tell me I can't play."

Rooney: Man Utd should give Ten Hag time

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Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag remained upbeat despite their 1-0 loss to Arsenal and believes his team are still fighting for a successful end to the campaign

In order to qualify for Europe next season, United must finish in the top seven - and they lie three points behind Chelsea in that position with just two rounds of fixtures left - or beat Manchester City in this month's FA Cup final at Wembley.

After the loss to Arsenal, Ten Hag was content with the "attitude" and the competitiveness his side showed against the title-chasing Gunners - and believes that the United supporters are behind him.

But Rooney believes some of United's players are "just trying to get to the end of the season".

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"I think the players have to look at themselves, when you've got a manager talking about attitudes and players not being right to play for Manchester United, that's a massive insult. If I see my manager saying that, there's no way I would let that ride and ride until the end of the season," Rooney said.

"I think some players are just trying to get to the end of the season, that's my opinion on it. So I feel for him, but that's his job to make sure the players are right."

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Asked what that result means for the future of Ten Hag, Rooney added: "When you're losing games in the way they're losing games, there's going to be big questions asked.

"I would personally hope they do give him [Ten Hag] time, there are a lot of problems with recruitment, it hasn't been good for a few years.

"I hope he gets time to do it right. But we saw it in 2016 when Louis van Gaal lost his job [after winning the FA Cup], so you never know."

Keane: United so bad | Merson: A shocking display

Discussing the result, former United captain Keane was critical of Ten Hag's attack, which failed to make the most of having 14 shots - three more than Arsenal - and 145 touches in the final third.

"The disappointment for me in the last half an hour was United. Arsenal have come to Old Trafford over the years and found it difficult, but I bet Arsenal couldn't believe how bad United were," Keane said.

"Whatever bits of possession they had, the end product and lack of quality - you talk about the great teams United had over the years, the players they've had. That last half an hour, decision-making, nobody digging anybody out, making mistakes, falling over, not putting demands on each other.

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Roy Keane, Wayne Rooney and Paul Merson reflect on Arsenal's winning goal and how Manchester United's Casemiro played a huge part by playing Kai Havertz onside

"That United team there... they're so bad."

United came into the game with 10 injured players missing - but Merson believes Ten Hag's side should still be doing better.

"It was shocking," said Merson about United's display. "They just had 145 touches in the final third, and two shots on target. One was from Casemiro from 40 yards which I could have saved it.

"It's not good enough, you can't lose nine games at home, this is Manchester United."

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