Erik ten Hag was thrilled to see Jadon Sancho return to action in Manchester United’s Carabao Cup semi-final victory over Nottingham Forest, while he believes Anthony Martial can have a massive impact in the second half of the season.
The Red Devils took a 3-0 lead into Wednesday’s second leg and, after a somewhat lacklustre first-half showing, bagged two goals in the second period though substitute Martial and Fred to secure a 2-0 win on the night and 5-0 on aggregate.
United will take on Newcastle in the final later this month at Wembley as they look to end their almost six-year wait for a trophy.
In equally positive news for the team, Ten Hag was able to bring on both Sancho and Martial in the second half with both players giving lively cameos.
Sancho had not played a competitive match since October and only recently returned to Carrington after undergoing a personal fitness programme in the Netherlands, but Ten Hag was delighted to see the reception he got from supporters at Old Trafford.
Asked about Sancho’s return and the huge cheers that greeted his introduction, Ten Hag told MUTV: ‘It was great. The fans who cheered him on and gave him loud applause, that’s great for Jadon and it shows how the fans like Jadon Sancho to give him this love.
‘So we are happy with this, we need that connection with the fans and it has been growing all season, so I hope we can keep going in this process.’
In another interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, he added: ‘I think he enjoyed it to be back on the pitch. He has been smiling in the last few weeks in Carrington. I hope he can keep this process going and of course that he has a huge contribution to the season.’
In his post-match press conference, Ten Hag also spoke about Sancho, saying: ‘He has really high standards, he has great capabilities to contribute to our team.
‘I think especially now the team is improving we are playing more in the opponent’s half, I think his capabilities coming more in front, he can enact them more because he will have more touches on the ball and that’s when his game gives him the best performance, gives him the best platform to perform.’
Martial, meanwhile, had missed United’s last three matches but returned to action with a goal and Ten Hag believes he can be a massive weapon – and elevate the team’s whole attack – once he has fully overcome his injury.
He continued: ‘We know what Antony Martial can do if he is fit and he isn’t even fit!
‘So imagine if he is 10 games after his shoulder he is on board, so I think we will see a totally different frontline. And you will see a totally different Anthony Martial – I think a much better Anthony Martial.’
Reflecting on the match to Sky Sports afterwards, he added: ‘We just want to improve every day. I think we have a good squad so we have to demand and control the high standards. You have to bring that every game. We are Manchester United. When you are a United player you have to match the standards.
‘We have had to make lots of compromises in the season so far so hopefully now they [all players back from injuries] are all available. If you want to win trophies, you need them all to be available. You saw tonight you can bring a new dynamic off the bench.’
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