Erik ten Hag is confident that Manchester United, hit by absenteeism, will have the depth and energy to cope with the relentless clash as they make their way to a Nottingham Forest side in ‘survival mode’.
There is no let up in a hectic first season for the Dutchman, who is juggling the top four as he bids to follow Carabao Cup triumph with Europa League and FA Cup glory.
United head to relegation-threatened Forest in the Premier League on Sunday before turning their attention to cup matters as this manic spell continues.
The Europa League quarter-final against Sevilla is poised at 2-2 ahead of Thursday’s return to Spain, which will be followed by the FA Cup semi-final against Brighton at Wembley next Sunday.
“We have depth in the squad,” said Ten Hag as the number of absentees grows at a vital stage in the campaign.
“We have to use the squad – that’s what we did too (Thursday).
“In the meantime you have to win games, so you also need a tactical approach to win games.
“But I think we have good players and when we have problems – so injuries, suspensions – we have depth in the squad.”
Asked about the impact of opponents who have played fewer games at this stage than United, Ten Hag said: “Yes (I need to think about energy levels), but I also see an advantage.
“We have had more matches so we have more routines so we like to play and that will give energy.
“I think many, many advantages and we want to focus on silverware. This must give energy.
“We want to make this season a success. This must give energy”.
Luke Shaw and Scott McTominay could return to action on Sunday, but Lisandro Martinez – sidelined for the rest of the season with a broken metatarsal bone in his foot – and Raphael Varane are expected to miss after picking up injuries against Sevilla.
The defensive pairing join Marcus Rashford, Alejandro Garnacho and Donny van de Beek on the sidelines as United look to beat Forest for the fourth time this season.
Steve Cooper’s promoted side lost 3-0 at Old Trafford at Old Trafford in December, before Ten Hag’s side won 3-0 at the banks of the Trent and 2-0 at home in the Carabao Cup semi-final.
“I know where they are and we know what we can expect on Sunday,” said the Dutchman from Forest, who enters the weekend 18th in the standings.
“They are in a survival mode and will run for their lives, so we have to be ready for that game.”
Among those pushing to start at the City Ground is Anthony Martial, who led the line with aplomb on Thursday as the regularly injured forward made his first start in three months.
Two of the 27-year-old’s seven goals have come against Forest this season and Ten Hag are looking to balance the advantage of his attacking qualities by keeping him fit.
“Maybe he can (play 90 minutes) but he’s a risk,” said the United manager, after retiring it after 62 minutes against former club Sevilla.
“We can’t take that risk right now because we don’t have so many options up front with Rashford injured, with Garnacho injured.
“We don’t have that many options there, so we have to be careful and also from (an) individual perspective, we know that when a lot of cargo comes in, it gets injured.
“So, we have to build it up and especially when the matches follow each other quickly, the recovery time is less.
“We have to take this into account as well. We have to manage it very well and very carefully.”
Ten Hag had high hopes for Martial this season, playing him throughout pre-season.
But Thursday’s game against Sevilla was just his 18th in a season with injuries, so he’s hard to rely on for United this season.
“For me he is best as a centre-forward but I think he can play in more positions – he can play as a 10 and wide positions as well,” said Ten Hag.
“Look, it’s hard to say because the story shows different, but I want him to be (a big part next season) because I think he’s a great player.
“He certainly has the qualities to play top football and when he’s fit our team plays better.”
Asked if Martial will definitely still be at United next season, Ten Hag said: “From my point of view, yes.”