Man Utd coach Benni McCarthy shares Pep Guardiola theory in effort to save Erik ten Hag

Benni McCarthy thinks even Pep Guardiola would have struggled at Man Utd this season (Image: Getty)

Benni McCarthy believes that even Pep Guardiola would have failed to guide Manchester United into the top-four this season due to their rampant injury problems. Under-fire Red Devils boss Erik ten Hag has repeatedly cited his lack of options as the key reason behind the club’s underwhelming results, which saw them finish eighth in the Premier League table.

United hadn’t finished lower than seventh in 34 years, with Ten Hag now clinging onto the hotseat as Sir Jim Ratcliffe oversees a post-season review to determine whether or not the Dutchman will be dismissed.

With 45 separate injury cases recorded, United suffered more than any other Premier League side in 2023/24. Tyrell Malacia didn’t play a single minute, while Lisandro Martinez missed a staggering 36 matches.

McCarthy, whose own United future is in doubt just one month ahead of his contract’s expiry date, believes that even six-time Premier League winner Guardiola would have fallen short of fans’ expectations if he was in Ten Hag’s position.

“It’s the first time in the club’s history that we had so much bad luck with injuries,” McCarthy told South African radio station 947. “In the Premier League, if you don’t have your best squad available, you’re going to fall short because any team can beat any team. That’s why it’s the toughest league.

“I’m at the club every day and I see the struggle. I’ve never, in my life, experienced anything like that as a player or a coach. We were only able to play with our strongest team in four games all season prior to the FA Cup final. It’s been an absolute nightmare.

Erik ten Hag spent the end of 2023/24 fighting for his Man Utd future (Image: Getty)

“For everyone saying it’s been our worst season: yes, it has been. But also, with what we’ve had to deal with, no coach, not even the great Pep Guardiola, could survive a season at Man United finishing in the top four. And that ain’t no excuse.”

McCarthy was brought to Old Trafford by Ten Hag in 2022 to work with United’s attacking players. Their futures are therefore likely to be tied to one another as the Red Devils board weigh up what was a turbulent season.

Despite finishing outside the European qualification spots, United found a way into the Europa League by beating Manchester City in last weekend’s FA Cup final. But that may yet prove to be Ten Hag’s final flourish.

McCarthy admits he would be tempted to take up a full-time manager job if the curtain closes on his time at United, with South African giants Kaizer Chiefs on his radar as a possible destination.