Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Ferdinand stunned by Ten Hag use of declining Man Utd player, with superior star’s head ‘scrambled’ on bench

Pundit Rio Ferdinand

Pundit Rio Ferdinand

Rio Ferdinand has admitted he is gobsmacked that Jonny Evans is ahead of Raphael Varane in the Manchester United pecking order, with Erik ten Hag’s defensive selections getting called out.

Man Utd raised eyebrows in the summer when they re-signed Evans, 35, on a short-term contract. The centre-back, who was previously in Man Utd’s senior squad between 2006 and 2015, impressed during his friendly appearances and went on to earn a year-long deal.

So far this season, Evans has played eight times in all competitions, with six of those outings coming in the Premier League.

In recent weeks, Ten Hag has selected a centre-half pairing of Evans and Harry Maguire. The latter has forced his way back into Ten Hag’s plans after having been stripped of the captaincy over the summer.

Man Utd’s decision to land Evans on a short-term basis has been justified by the recurring injury to Lisandro Martinez, which has ruled him out until the new year.

However, Ten Hag opting to play Evans and Maguire over Varane has sparked debate. Following the 3-0 derby defeat to Manchester City on October 29, the Dutchman was asked about his defensive selection. He replied: “As I said, it is about tactical reasons why I chose these partnerships. I think Harry and Jonny did well.

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“Last year Harry didn’t play a lot, so I was very happy with Rapha’s performances. I have always been happy with his performance. But in this moment, Harry is playing very well and there is internal competition.”

However, Ferdinand, who won six Premier League titles with Man Utd between 2002 and 2014, has expressed his surprise at Varane being left out, considering all the Frenchman has achieved in the game.

Rio Ferdinand cannot figure out Ten Hag decision

“We don’t know. If he’s on the bench, you think he must be fit,” Ferdinand said on his Vibe with Five YouTube show, when asked if Varane is ready to play.

“In my mind, when you’re on the bench you can play – because you could have to come on in the first minute if someone gets injured.

“So if you’re fit enough to travel and get on the bench, you’re fit [to play]. So I don’t know what the reason is.

“But I know that Varane is waking up and his head has got scramblers going off in it, because he’s thinking: ‘I’ve banged out five Champions League medals, I’ve played an integral part in all of those, I’ve played with the best players in the world, I’ve come to Man Utd and Jonny Evans is starting in front of me!’

“No disrespect [to Evans]. Regardless of what Evans has done, there is no way Jonny Evans was ever in Varane’s mind. He would never have been thinking about Jonny Evans.”

Varane could finally come back into the starting eleven for Man Utd after the international break, as the Red Devils have confirmed Evans will be out for ‘a few weeks’ after suffering a thigh strain. Although, Varane will still have to overcome Victor Lindelof to get back into the Man Utd side, as Ten Hag rates the Sweden international highly.

Meanwhile, Tuesday’s Euro Paper Talk includes Sir Jim Ratcliffe reportedly identifying his first two Man Utd signings.