Manchester United substitutes have once again replaced Erik ten Hag as the Dutchman continues to prove himself to be Europe’s best midfielder.
Ten Hag – unhappy with United’s lackluster first-half performance against Barcelona on Thursday night – replaced Wout Weghorst with Antony at half-time in a move that turned out to be another stroke of genius.
It was a tactical move that allowed Marcus Rashford to switch from the left wing to No. 9, Jadon Sancho dragged from No. 10 to the left, while Bruno Fernandes drifted into the central vacancy on the right wing.
As soon as Antony came on, he caused Barcelona all sorts of problems with his pace and intricate footwork before completing United’s 2-1 comeback with a sublime first-time finish to send Barcelona out of the Europa League.
Remarkably, it was the 19th, yes 19th, time that a Man United substitute has come on and scored this season – the most of any team in Europe’s big five leagues.
Antony came off the bench at half-time to score against Barcelona in what was the 19th goal by a Man United substitute this season
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is proving to be the best tactician in Europe this season
Antony was just the latest substitute to make an instant impact for Ten Hag from the bench, but the likes of Anthony Martial, Rashford, Alejandro Garnacho and Sancho have done the same this season.
Luciano Spalletti’s Napoli (17), Quique Setien’s Villarreal (17) and Xavi’s Barcelona (14) come close to United’s tally but, for now, Ten Hag are in a league of their own.
MOST SUBSTITUTE GOALS IN EUROPE’S TOP FIVE LEAGUES
1. Manchester United – 19
2. Naples – 17
3. Villarreal – 17
4. Barcelona – 14
=5. Atletico Madrid, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Fiorentina, Monaco, Real Madrid, Reims – 12
Perhaps more importantly, Ten Hag has demonstrated this season that he isn’t afraid to wait to make his move.
Rather than letting the game slip away, the Dutchman acts with confidence and authority.
As well as turning things around at half-time against Barcelona, the Dutchman also saw positive results as he made half-time changes against Liverpool, Omonia Nicosia, Wolves, Man City and Leicester.
On New Year’s Eve, Ten Hag really knocked Rashford out of form against Lobos by oversleeping and missing a team meeting.
However, with United unable to break through a resolute Wolves defence, Ten Hag brought in the 25-year-old and he stole all three points at Molineux with a second-half goal.
It was clear that, unlike many managers in the post-Ferguson era at Old Trafford, Ten Hag is not afraid to make quick in-game decisions for the benefit of the team.
United’s impressive record from the bench goes back to Anthony Martial’s two consolation goals against rivals Manchester City in a humiliating 6-3 defeat at the Etihad in October.
However, the Frenchman did the same four days later against Omania Nicosia and also came off the bench to score against Nottingham Forest earlier this month, taking his tally to four as a substitute.
Ten Hag’s ability to act without hesitation was summed up against Omania in October. With his side trailing at half time, he brought on Rashford who scored twice and set up substitute Martial to seal a 3–2 win for United.
Erik ten Hag brought Marcus Rashford on at half-time against Wolves in December – he scored the winning goal
Napoli and Villarreal have 17 goals in reserve this season, but Ten Hag’s United are ahead
Martial’s tally is bested only by Rashford, who has five goals on the bench, particularly when Ten Hag has had to turn to the trusty striker in times of difficulty.
Meanwhile, 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho has scored twice off the bench, including an injury-time winner against Fulham in November, while Jadon Sancho has scored twice as a substitute since returning from a spell out of the side.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Scott McTominay and two from Fred complete the 19 goals that United’s super reserves have scored this season.
Ten Hag may have a stronger XI in his head, but the Dutchman has shown he will move urgently to utilize his squad’s depth if the players on the field aren’t doing the job.
|02/10/2022||Antonio Martial||city of manchester||two|
|06/10/2022||Marcus Rashford||Omonia Nicosia||two|
|06/10/2022||Antonio Martial||Omonia Nicosia||1|
|10/13/2022||Scott McTominay||Omonia Nicosia||1|
|10/27/2022||Marcus Rashford||Sheriff Tiraspol||1|
|12/31/2022||Marcus Rashford||Wolverhampton Wanderers||1|
|01/10/2023||Marcus Rashford||Charlton Athletic||two|
|02/01/2023||Antonio Martial||nottingham forest||1|
|02/08/2023||jadon sancho||United Leeds||1|
|02/12/2023||Alejandro Garnacho||United Leeds||1|
|02/19/2023||jadon sancho||City of Leicester||1|