'I had to be annoying' - Man Utd's Wout Weghorst explains role in midfield battle with Barcelona maestro Frenkie de Jong
- Dutch star signed to be central striker
- Operated as a No.10 at Camp Nou
- Useful tactical option for Ten Hag
WHAT HAPPENED? The Netherlands international was acquired by the Red Devils during the January transfer window – on loan from Burnley – to help fill a central striking void at Old Trafford. He was, however, asked to operate a little deeper than usual during the first leg of the Europa League knockout play-off at Camp Nou, with Erik ten Hag looking for him to sit behind Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho while making life difficult for fellow countryman Frenkie de Jong as he occupied a holding midfield berth for Barca.
WHAT THEY SAID: Weghorst has told ESPN of the tactical challenge put to him by Ten Hag in Catalunya: “This was a game at a high level. Last week I got into that position for the first time during the match in the last half hour. I think he (Ten Hag) was satisfied because I heard that I would play in midfield. It is very important for them to shift the game, my job was to constantly get in their way and be annoying there so that they don’t get into their game and can play the way they like to do. And to be able to make my depth actions offensively from the second line, because they are vulnerable in that. You saw that in the first half.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Ten Hag was pleased with how his positional experiment played out, with Rashford involved in both of United’s goal as they were involved in a thrilling 2-2 draw with the current leaders of La Liga. The United boss told BT Sport of Weghorst’s efforts: “I think it worked tonight. Wout did well in that position, which I know he can do. It gave us variation with Jadon and Bruno [Fernandes] coming into the half spaces and getting on the ball and the full-backs joining it. We had a lot of variation and a lot of opportunities. With the full-backs joining in, I think we had a lot of variation and we had a lot of opportunities and we should have won this game.”
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WHAT NEXT? United will take in the second leg of their heavyweight clash with Barcelona at Old Trafford next Thursday, but have a Premier League meeting with Leicester on Sunday to get through first – with Ten Hag’s side sat just five points adrift of the leaders in their domestic division.