Many were left puzzled by Erik ten Hag’s decision to make a triple substitution with only 30 minutes left to play and Man United leading Sevilla by just two goals. However, the coach defended his decision, stating that he had no other choice after Raphael Varane was forced off due to injury at halftime.
Ten Hag substituted key players Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho, and Anthony Martial for Anthony Elanga, Christian Eriksen, and Wout Weghorst.
While Elanga has not scored for his club since February 2022, and Weghorst has only scored two goals in 20 games for United, both of which were rebounds, ten Hag maintained that he had to make the changes due to the circumstances of the game.
In addition to the triple substitution made by Erik ten Hag during Manchester United’s Europa League quarter-final first leg draw with Sevilla, Antony, who had been a goalscoring threat throughout the match, was also replaced by Facundo Pellistri in the 81st minute.
Despite United having threatened to effectively end the quarter-final as a contest after one leg, own goals from Tyrell Malacia and Harry Maguire in the 84th and 92nd minutes allowed Sevilla to secure a draw.
The timing of the substitutions, as well as the choice of substitutes, when United were only leading 2-0, puzzled many observers.
However, ten Hag explained that referee Felix Zwayer had warned him that Bruno Fernandes and Antony, both of whom had already been booked, were at risk of being sent off.
This was the reason behind the substitutions, as ten Hag did not want to risk losing two key players due to disciplinary issues.
“I had to make them,” Ten Hag protested.
“There was no other way. Rapha was injured, that was the first I had to make. And then Anthony Martial, first start after a long period, so we had to make him on the 60,” He added.
“Then Bruno: I got the warning from the refs, he was short before a second booking and the same for Antony dos Santos. So I had to make the subs, I had no other choice.”
“But still we controlled the game. Still we had to score the third goal. It was a good action from Pelle and Ty has a big chance for 3-0 in 81st minute.”
“And then the last 10 minute of the game everything was against us.”
“We have to be smarter, we switch off for the first goal, then we get the injury of Licha (Martinez), another bad luck.”
“Both goals against, both deflected, what can you do? Sometimes you have bad days and bad luck. Tonight was not our night.”