Man Utd’s injury crisis shared: The main reasons behind Erik ten Hag’s problems

Manchester United face a crucial week in their increasingly desperate battle for Champions League qualification with another injury crisis.

Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof have been ruled out for at least a month with muscle problems and will miss Thursday’s trip to Chelsea and the visit of Premier League leaders Liverpool three days later, along with fellow defenders Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia.

Raphael Varane and Jonny Evans have returned to training after injury problems of their own but manager Erik ten Hag must decide whether he can risk the pair.

According to the website Premier Injuries – Sports Injury Insights, United have suffered 30 separate injuries this season which have resulted in a player missing at least one game in the Premier League. Only Newcastle have a worse injury record (32) this term.

United have suffered an average of 8.5 injuries every 1,000 minutes in all competitions this season and have missed a total of 1,136 days through injury up to the latest international break.

Telegraph Sport looks at some of the factors behind the injury nightmare that prompted an internal investigation in the autumn.

Training loads

Some United players were concerned about the number of high-intensity training sessions between games and privately worried that the approach may have contributed to the team’s injury problems this season. The authors of those concerns go back to the summer when Christian Eriksen complained that there was “probably too much traveling around” on the club’s pre-season tour of the United States. United’s summer tour included games in Norway, Edinburgh, New Jersey, San Diego, Houston, Las Vegas and Dublin. But Ten Hag rejected suggestions that the squad is overworked. “We have to be fit [but] we don’t train too hard,” he said. The Dutchman also insisted United were barely training at the moment given the emphasis on recovery between games. “We don’t train because we recover then you go to the next game,” he said.

Internal injury review

John Murtough, United’s director of football, confirmed in October that the club had launched an inquiry into their injury problems as part of a wider review of the medical arrangement being carried out by Gary O’Driscoll, who has taken charge of medicine sports last week. September after 14 years at Arsenal. Robin Sadler, United’s long-established head physiotherapist, left in January as part of the shake-up. Ten Hag said the review had thrown up some responses but would not reveal them. “We have an idea and we will work on it,” he said. “Internal, we will deal with it.” But Ten Hag admitted that he could not be sure that things would be better next season. “You can’t avoid this 100 percent,” he said. “It’s impossible.”

A crowded calendar

United have played just 13 games over 91 days in 2024 – eight fewer than the corresponding period last year when they endured a marathon 62-game season – but the injuries continue to mount. But Ten Hag says this is a consequence of the accumulation of games and fatigue going back to the winter World Cup in Qatar in the middle of last season. “The amount of games we’ve had in the last 18 months still affects our squad,” he said. Ten Hag believes the game’s power brokers have a duty to rethink an increasingly irregular calendar. “Indeed,” he said. “The players are overworked and can no longer bring the performances. We are already past the point where we demand what we want from our best players. Team levels will continue to flow if you continue this process by overloading the international competitions.”

More ‘strong’ players are needed

Captain Bruno Fernandes has started all 29 of United’s Premier League games while Diogo Dalot has played 26 league games. But United’s squad is riddled with players who cannot cope with the demands of top-level football every few days. Recruiting players with the physical and mental attributes to cope with such a workload is an urgent matter for Ineos. “You need very strong players, that’s the requirement,” said Ten Hag. “I think we have more players who are very strong like Bruno but, yes, that’s the type of player you want. When you go into Christmas with a lot of injuries and then you have to bring them back … they are injury free but not fit fit. They are not straight back into the form, which also needs a few games before you get back into the rhythm, [so] it still has an impact.”

International issues

United had 13 players on international duty in March and Ten Hag believes the international calendar is becoming more problematic, especially as he says there are countries that ignore the clubs’ recommendations regarding players’ workloads. -players. Casemiro picked up an ankle injury in Brazil’s draw with Venezuela in October but was declared fit enough to play 90 minutes in a win in Uruguay four days later, only for United to lose their next two league games in against Sheffield United and Manchester City. “We have national teams five times a year,” Ten Hag said. “You take players away and you have no impact [on them]. OK, some national teams are very well connected [with] and we manage the programs but there are also others who do as they wish. You have nothing to do with what they are doing there.”

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