Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag (centre) celebrates victory with Lisandro Martinez (left) and Antony - Erik ten Hag relishes Manchester United's relentless schedule amid quadruple quest - Getty Images/Andrew Kearns

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag (centre) celebrates victory with Lisandro Martinez (left) and Antony – Erik ten Hag relishes Manchester United’s relentless schedule amid quadruple quest – Getty Images/Andrew Kearns

Erik ten Hag has welcomed Manchester United’s relentless schedule – by insisting nothing infuses “ambitious” players with energy like the pursuit of multiple trophies.

United have already played 40 games this season – one fewer than Aston Villa, Brentford, Crystal Palace and Everton are due to face in the entirety of this campaign.

Having secured their first trophy for six years with Sunday’s League Cup triumph over Newcastle United at Wembley, United could play a further 25 matches this season if they progress to the finals of the FA Cup and Europa League.

A 65-game season would be only one match fewer than their most congested campaign – 2008-09 when they played 66 fixtures in total – and eclipse the 64 matches United navigated under Jose Mourinho in 2016-17, when they won the League Cup and Europa League.

But Ten Hag, whose side resume their quest for a quadruple of trophies with an FA Cup fifth-round tie against West Ham United at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, believes their frenetic calendar will serve only to motivate and energise his players – rather than induce fatigue.

“Yes I think so,” the United manager said when asked if his squad could cope with such a heavy workload. “Until now, we have managed it quite well and I think we can do it also until the end of the season. Except Anthony Martial, the availability from all the players is there.

“First, mentally – they are really ambitious, that is one thing and that gives them energy. Second, we have the type of players who can handle the load, the physical load.

“In my experience in Ajax, when we dropped out of Europe the levels went down, and when you are in it gives energy.” After being knocked out of the Champions League group stages in 2019-20, Ajax lost their next Eredivisie match to AZ Alkmaar and then, after being eliminated from the Europa League knockout rounds that season, Ten Hag’s side lost back-to-back games against AZ in the league and Utrecht in the Dutch Cup.

‘It’s not like we are satisfied – we want to do better’

The following season, after failing to reach the Champions League knockout stages, Ajax won just two of their next four Eredivisie matches. Ten Hag is keen something similar does not happen with United – who face Real Betis over two legs in their Europa League round-of-16 tie this month – and sees a hunger among his squad for more success.

“When I see the fight in the dressing room it’s not like we are satisfied with this [the League Cup],” he said. “We want to do better. That is quite clear. So, it’s inspiring and it’s not the end – definitely not.

“We have high expectations from ourselves, we are ambitious, but ambitious to play better, we have to make our game better. That is what we have to aim for day by day so the demands are for high standards.

“That [talk of a quadruple] is for fans. We have to focus on the next game and that is the only thing we are doing. We don’t have to talk about trophies. We have to talk about West Ham United, that is the [next] game.”

Ten Hag said top scorer Marcus Rashford was fit to face West Ham but that United had doubts over the fitness of defender Luke Shaw and midfielder Fred.

The manager refused to put a timescale on Martial’s return but said he hoped to see the France striker back before the international break later this month.

“I hope but I don’t give an expectation about that – let him do his work,” said Ten Hag. “Several times now [he returns] then he drops back too quickly. Give him the time. Of course I hope he’s on board but at this moment we’re doing really well with this set up.

“When he is available then we have an extra option and a good option so give him time. When he’s back we’ll be happy because we will have a quality extra option, hopefully for the rest of the season.”

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