Erik ten Hag challenged a fully fit Aaron Wan-Bissaka to stake his claim for a starting berth and welcomed the added competition he provides at right-back for Manchester United.
The defender has played just three times across all competitions under the Dutchman this campaign, having struggled with illness and injuries.
Wan-Bissaka had been linked with a January exit from Old Trafford, with former club Crystal Palace having been tipped among his suitors.
But an impressive performance on United’s return to Premier League action against Nottingham Forest has seemingly breathed new life into his career with the Red Devils.
Ahead of his side’s trip to Wolves on Saturday, Ten Hag indicated Wan-Bissaka’s absence was more a matter of fitness than form.
“You have to be on the pitch [to impress],” he said. “In the first half of the season, he was either injured or ill, so [he] did not have a role in the squad.
“I think the break was good for him. He returned with the under-20s camp in Spain, and he played some games. Now he’s doing really well.
“I’m happy with his performance. We need that competition in our squad. He has to play games in the team, and they [he] can develop, [he] can grow.”
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 29, 2022
One player who will not feature for United this season is Cody Gakpo, after the transfer target instead sealed a switch to Premier League rivals Liverpool from PSV.
With Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit in November, the need for additional offensive players remains a matter to be solved, but Ten Hag has confidence in his current squad, in particular youngster Alejandro Garnacho.
The teenager has made a number of memorable impressions as a substitute this term, and the Dutchman feels he can continue to rely on the Argentina youth international.
“We need impact from the bench,” he added. “They’re in the offensive department. You need players coming from the bench who will have an impact on the game, or at least keep the wind on your side.”