Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag tells Harry Maguire captaincy is no guarantee of a start

Erik ten Hag has told Harry Maguire his status as Manchester United captain does not guarantee he will start every week, while hailing Raphael Varane’s “immense” status as a player.

Varane impressed at the heart of United’s defense after replacing Maguire in the starting line-up for Monday’s win over historic rivals Liverpool, which earned United’s first points of the new Premier League season and Ten Hag’s first win on the job.

Maguire ended the night as an unused substitute and may face a challenge to reclaim his place as one half of Ten Hag’s first-choice centre-back, with new signing Lisandro Martinez also drawing praise for his performance alongside Varane.

When asked to explain his decision to choose Varane over his captain, Ten Hag said: “We have options. And you already said, Varane, his stature is immense.

“In pre-season we decided to build him up physically so he had a bit of a slow start. He was fit in the first few games, but he wasn’t always fit in the first phase of preparation, so we’re glad we built him up like that.

“You see, when the team needed him, he was really there. His profile, size and what he has already won in the past shows that he can really contribute to his team. There is competition for the team and we need it, we have to play so many games.

“We can do that in multiple builds and see what we need from game to game – what can the build be for Liverpool, but also in the second half at Brentford we played with Varane and Maguire in the centre, so there are a lot of options .

“Injuries forget me: Victor Lindelof has done really well in pre-season so I’m happy he’s back in the squad so we have another option. We have internal competition and that’s good and that’s what top teams need.”

Manchester United captain Harry Maguire faces a battle for a regular start under Erik ten Hag

(AFP via Getty Images)

During United’s pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia, Ten Hag confirmed Maguire would remain captain of the club and went on to suggest he would be considered one of their first-choice middle halves as a result.

However, the United manager appeared to be backtracking ahead of Saturday’s Premier League trip to Southampton.

When it was suggested that Maguire could be dropped there would be a debate, Ten Hag said: “Yes, but I don’t think that means you always have to play as captain, especially when you also have Varane in your squad.”

Varane was joined at United this week by former Real Madrid team-mate Casemiro, who has attended training since his £60m move was confirmed and could make his debut at St Mary’s in Saturday midday’s opener .

United’s move to Casemiro came in the window relatively late, well after talks began about priority transfer target Frenkie de Jong, but Ten Hag said the 30-year-old midfielder was always a target.

“We have a list. We have options. He was always there, but little did we know that he would become available. The moment we got signals we got proactive and we made it and we’re really happy about it.

“He’s the cement between the stones, he’s really good at guiding other players because he’s a leader, he’s a very good strategist and he can also play a ball and he wins challenges, so he brings a lot to a game and he will help us.

“In between he will be the liaison, a really important role and I’m very happy to have filled that role in the squad.”

Ten Hag had prioritized a defensive midfielder this summer and has repeatedly stressed the importance of filling what he believes is a gap in the squad. The United manager now believes he has enough options in midfield but admits there is room for improvement.

“With Fred and Scott we have a lot of options now [McTominay]. We have Casemiro, Christian [Eriksen]Bruno [Fernandes]donny [van de Beek]so now we have ways to level the midfield, yes

“We’re not the best in the world, but the intention always has to be that Man United look for better. So good is not good enough, always strive for better.

“That has to be the culture on the pitch and that’s the demand on the players, but also in all departments of the club. It has to be the standard, it’s the requirement, and that’s the path we have to take.” Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag tells Harry Maguire captaincy is no guarantee of a start

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