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Erik ten Hag explains plan to solve Manchester United defensive ‘puzzle’ ahead of derby

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Football

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Erik ten Hag admits he must solve a defensive “puzzle” for Sunday’s Manchester derby.

Harry Maguire has joined Luke Shaw, Lisandro Martinez, Tyrell Malacia and Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the sidelines through injury and Manchester United boss Ten Hag is expected to pick from the same squad that edged past Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup in midweek.

Sofyan Amrabat returned to the United side on Wednesday on the left, with Diogo Dalot on the right.

Ten Hag said on manutd.com: “We have to lay the puzzle because we are still missing full-backs. We are still missing centre-halves. So we have to be creative but I think we can. On Wednesday, we showed we can, if we have the right plan.

“But, more important than that, if we have that passion, and that ambition, and desire and determination to win the game, then we are able to do it.”

United’s best run of the season was halted last weekend by a 2-1 defeat against Fulham, dealing a major blow to their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.

A trip to the Etihad Stadium, where United have conceded a combined 10 goals in their last two visits, presents a formidable challenge, but Ten Hag believes they can put the Fulham disappointment behind them.

“Of course, it’s annoying,” he said. “It still annoys me, that game against Fulham. But it happened and, also, we can’t forget what happened before that.

“From January on, we are in very good form, on a very good run. We bounced back (at Forest) and we have to keep this process going. We’re looking forward, great games are coming up – big games and good challenges.

“So the team is really excited about that. I’m excited about going into this game, and also the coming games, but Sunday is very important.”

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