Erik ten Hag wants “competition” among his Manchester United players as they continue their assault on the Champions League places with a trip to Wolves on Saturday.
After a tough start to his first season in charge, Ten Hag’s side recovered with an impressive spell before the World Cup pause to sit fifth in the Premier League.
They returned to league action with a 3-0 home victory over struggling Nottingham Forest on Tuesday, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka making just his third appearance in all competitions this season.
With Wan-Bissaka coming back into the side, Ten Hag emphasised the need for players to fight for their places as the season goes on.
“You have to be on the pitch (to impress),” Ten Hag told reporters. “In the first half of the season, he was either injured or ill, so (he) did not have a role in the squad.
“We need that competition in our squad.”
United face a Wolves side on Saturday buoyed by a 95th-minute winner at Everton on Monday, giving new head coach Julen Lopetegui victory in his first league game in charge.
Wolves remain in the bottom three, but could go as high as 14th if they triumph over United at Molineux.
Lopetegui is expecting a tough game against an improved United side, saying: “They are one of the best teams, not only in England, and have improved a lot in the last months.
“They are a very complete team with and without the ball so we have to be ready to beat them.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Wolves – Joao Moutinho
40 per cent (two of five) of Moutinho’s Premier League goals have come against United, though both of these came at Old Trafford. Can he open his account against the Red Devils at Molineux here?
Manchester United – Marcus Rashford
After finishing the World Cup as England’s joint-top scorer, Rashford has brought his impressive form back to club football with two goals in two matches in all competitions since arriving back to United. He would love to make it three straight games with a goal here.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– Wolves won their last Premier League meeting with United, 1-0 at Old Trafford in January. They last won consecutive league games against them between September 1979 and August 1980 (three in a row).
– After netting nine goals in two meetings with Wolves in the 2011-12 Premier League campaign (4-1 at home, 5-0 away), United have scored just nine goals in their last 11 meetings with Wolves in all competitions.
– United have not lost their final league game in any of the last 10 calendar years (won seven, drawn three), since a 3-2 defeat to Blackburn in 2011. That loss was also their only Premier League defeat on New Year’s Eve (two wins, one draw).
– Manchester United have won four of their last seven Premier League away games (drawn one, lost two), having lost seven in a row on the road before this. They have scored in every game in this current run of seven, but the only time they scored more than twice saw them end up on the losing side (3-6 vs Manchester City in October).
– Wolves beat Everton 2-1 last time out in their first league game under Lopetegui – he could become just the third manager to win his first two top-flight games in charge of Wolves, after Andy Beattie (November 1964) and Sammy Chung (August 1977).