Mason Mount, victim of Manchester United's Injury problems

Is Manchester United’s Injury Problems Self-Inflicted Or Just Bad Luck?

In what has been a turbulent season on and off the pitch for the 13-time Premier League winners, there is no doubt that Erik Ten Hag’s men have been hit with a concerning number of injuries over the past 12 months, with £50 million signing Mason Mount and fan favourite Lisandro Martinez being some of the biggest absentees.

The Red Devils have suffered a staggering 65 separate injury cases this season, which has even seen the ever-reliable Bruno Fernandes miss his first Manchester United game due to injury.

So, it does beg the question: are Manchester United’s injury problems self-inflicted?

Manchester United’s Injury Problems: Previous Questions on Ten Hag’s Training Regime

With most of the injuries being reported as “non-contact muscle injuries,” could it be that the players are struggling with the ever-increasing number of games they’re asked to play or that Ten Hag’s training and tactics aren’t helping the issue?

During his time at Ajax, ten Hag claimed his players were “overloaded” by the calendar, which sparked questions from the Dutch media around the manager’s intense training methods, a similar situation that he finds himself in now. In his final month at the Yohan Cruyff Arena, Ten Hag’s Ajax travelled to AZ Alkmaar with 4 starters sidelined through season-ending injuries (Mazrouri, Gravenberch, Antony, and, Berghuis) for their title run-in against rivals PSV, going right to the wire.

However, ten Hag has recently hit back at critics, stating in an interview in April, “We don’t train too hard; with the standards in this league, you need to be fit.”

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Injuries Across the Board

There is no doubt that the Premier League is the fastest, most demanding league in world football and with the fixture list continuing to grow, could we see an increase in injuries for sides competing across all fronts in the coming seasons.

Chelsea currently sits at the top of the Premier League injury table, with Manchester United sitting in 4th, behind Brentford and Newcastle.

One thing is for certain: the end-to-end transition football that ten Hag’s United side plays has had an impact on player fatigue and injuries compared to last season.

In the 22/23 season, United played a much more compact midfield with a deeper backline to accommodate the likes of Christian Eriksen, who doesn’t have the ability to cover ground quickly, and David De Gea, who has always been very reluctant to leave his goal line.

In contrast, this season pundits, analysts and fans have all witnessed the gaping hole in United’s midfield, resulting in the 6 (Casemiro) having to cover an obscene amount of space and players constantly being asked to run up the length of the pitch in transition, almost like a basketball match.

Has Rotation Played a Factor?

A lack of rotation has also been a criticism of Erik Ten Hag in the past, even dating back to his Ajax days, with Alejandro Garnacho starting for 36 consecutive games at just 19 years old.

Manchester United’s Medical department has also come under scrutiny, with question marks over allowing players to come back too quickly from injury, as seen with Mason Mount and Luke Shaw. Jose Mourinho, in 2016, ordered a “complete review” of United’s medical staff after his team was hampered by Injuries and with little changing since, INEOS will have some huge work to do once they have completed their strategic review of all aspects of the club.

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However, despite the criticism of Erik Ten Hag’s training methods and the medical department, there is no doubt that United have been extremely unlucky with their injury problems this season. Lisandro Martinez, one of United’s standouts from last season and someone the manager relies upon to play his style of football, has missed 78% of United’s games this season.

The World Cup winner returned from injury against Tottenham in January but just 2 games later, he was forced off in the 70th minute against West Ham due to an unfortunate collision with Vladimir Coufal, damaging the Defenders’ knee ligaments. In just 12 months Martinez has had three separate injuries (Foot, Knee, Calf).

Another example would be Marcus Rashford, who suffered bruised ribs in the game against Spurs because of a joint tackle from defenders Romero and van de Ven, Rashford has been playing through that injury since and had missed United’s last 4 games before coming on against Newcastle as he looks to recover his form before United’s huge cup final against Manchester City.

The Writer’s Verdict

So, yes, there are some causes for concern surrounding the workload put on the players and whether they are being overworked between games, but some of the major injuries this season have been caused in match scenarios, where neither ten Hag nor the medical team could have had an impact. 

It is also worth noting that every team has injuries and with the amount of games these players are being asked to play it is no coincidence that injuries are becoming a bigger part of our game.

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Ten Hag will be hoping that he will have the majority of his squad back to full fitness before their trip to Wembley, where he’ll be looking to take revenge on Manchester City after last year’s cup final defeat.

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