Erik ten Hag talked up his substitutes after Manchester United averted a humbling by Omonia Nicosia to record a 3-2 win in the Europa League.
United, reeling from Sunday’s chastening 6-3 derby defeat to Manchester City, looked set for fresh embarrassment when the Cypriot side took a first-half lead through Karim Ansarifard.
But Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial came off the bench to inspire a comeback victory, Rashford scoring either side of Martial’s 63rd-minute strike, even if Nikolas Panayiotou made the visitors sweat again late on.
Ten Hag criticised his players for a “really bad 10 minutes” after Neil Lennon’s team took a shock 34th-minute lead after lax defending, but admitted Martial’s return to fitness was a major boost.
“We started well, couple of chances, then… (that) mistake cannot happen, we have to take responsibility there.
“You let the crowd get alive and we have to avoid that. But then we had a really bad 10 minutes and we have to learn from it.
“We were too static. We had to make movements in behind and that’s why we made the subs. They had a real impact. That makes the team stronger.”
Ten Hag brought on Luke Shaw as well as Rashford but he highlighted the impact of fit-again Martial, who scored twice off the bench at the weekend.
“We have already seen in pre-season,” the Dutchman said when asked about Martial’s qualities.
“It was a really big disappointment for this team, for me when he got injured. We missed him and it had an effect on the team performance.”
Rashford echoed his manager when asked about the contribution of his fellow substitute.
“He is a massive player for us,” Rashford said of Martial. “He has been for a long time and, when he’s at it, he is an unbelievable player and I’ve always enjoyed playing with him.
“It was nice to link up with him today to score his goal and we’ll be looking to do that more and more. I think it’s good for him. We’ve both been injured; he’s been injured a little bit longer than me so it’s good for him to get minutes, and for the second game in a row he’s come on and scored goals and made an impact.”
Rashford insisted the half-time mood had been “positive” despite the threat of a striking upset.
“It’s job done but we would have liked to have played better,” Rashford said. “I wouldn’t say that we defended badly, it was just mistakes. Mistakes happen in football so we have to move on.
“I think until they scored, we were playing well. We had good movement, we could have probably just got in behind them a bit more and had a bigger threat on goal. But I thought we played well.
“(The manager) wanted us to be a bit more dynamic, take more chances going forward and try to score. It was positive at half-time and we made positive changes.”
(Photo: Getty Images)
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