Erik ten Hag has insisted that Willy Kambwala earned his first ever Manchester United thanks to his performances in training.

Kambwala was a surprise inclusion in the Man Utd starting lineup for Saturday’s eventual 2-0 defeat at the hands of West Ham United at London Stadium, slotting into the back four in Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof’s absence.

Despite the defeat, the 19-year-old performed admirably on his maiden Red Devils outing, completing 90% of his passes and making three ball recoveries.

Speaking about his decision to start Kambwala, Ten Hag told the press that the defender deserved his debut due to his performances in training and for the Under-21s:

Erik ten HagErik ten Hag

Ten Hag’s team need a win / Justin Setterfield/GettyImages

“So we had five centre-backs who started the season. [On Saturday] We had three or four who were ill or injured. And then you go and swap positions in the team. But he makes a good impression in training and during games of the Under-21s. So we decided to play him.

“I think he has shown he has the capabilities. I think his performance was very solid. You can see has a very bright future. Of course he has to work on himself, but you can see his potential and we are very pleased, I think, with his performance.’

”As we’ve seen in this game, I think we have we seen many skills for a modern centre-back and as I say, I’m very pleased with his performance.”

The defender may be set for a place on the bench for Man Utd’s crucial clash against Aston Villa on Boxing Day, with Ten Hag confirming that Varane looks set to return after missing the West Ham game due to illness:

“I think hopefully Raphael Varane will return. And for the rest, maybe Amad Diallo, we’ll see how far he is. He has trained now for two weeks. They are probably the ones who can maybe return.”

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