Ten Hag confident Man Utd can fill Eriksen void without signings on deadline day

By Sports Desk January 31, 2023

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is not expecting to delve into the transfer market on deadline day despite losing Christian Eriksen to injury for three months.

United confirmed on Tuesday that Eriksen is likely to be out at least until late April after sustaining an ankle injury in the FA Cup win over Reading on Saturday.

He was on the receiving end of a heavy tackle from Andy Carroll, who went unpunished before eventually getting sent off for another two forceful challenges.

Losing Eriksen is a major blow for United given his prominence in his first campaign at Old Trafford, with Bruno Fernandes (2,603) the only outfield player to record more minutes on the pitch than the Dane (2,274) for Ten Hag's men this term.

United will suddenly be without one of their chief creators, as Eriksen's 53 key passes is second only to Fernandes (81), and he leads the way for assists with nine.

But Ten Hag is confident he has the options to cope.

"Of course, [Eriksen] is disappointed about [the injury], we are disappointed about it," the manager told reporters ahead of Wednesday's EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Nottingham Forest.

"It happens in top football, you have to deal with it."

He added: "As you said, something coming out on deadline day is difficult and you can't make policy on such bad injuries, but we have players in the midfield department, good players, we also have players who can fill the gap."

With Donny van de Beek out for the season, Eriksen's injury leaves Ten Hag with senior midfield options of Fred, Casemiro, Fernandes and Scott McTominay, while 17-year-old Kobbie Mainoo has made two appearances in cup competitions and been among the substitutes on a handful of occasions in the Premier League.

Zidane Iqbal, a 19-year-old Iraq international, has also been on the bench often this season, though he is yet to make his debut and had reportedly been lined up for a loan move.

Either way, Ten Hag accepts there will have to be a degree of adaptation regardless of who steps up because they will not have the same attributes as the Denmark star.

"I think you can never fill that because every player has their own characteristics and identity, so another player will always fill it in in a different way," he said.

"So, it doesn't mean that you have to be less successful, but it's quite clear that Christian Eriksen, for our squad, brings top quality and he has some specifics that are hard to replace. For instance, his impact in the final third, [with his] final ball."

Brazil midfielder Fred would appear to be the most likely to benefit from Eriksen's absence.

Although the 29-year-old has made only five Premier League starts this term, in total he has played in 17 top-flight games, with Ten Hag seeming to value his energy and tenacity in the second half when others might be tiring.

There is also the added convenience of him regularly playing alongside Casemiro with the Selecao.

"You mentioned already in your first sentence, he's playing together with Casemiro in the Brazilian squad, I would say that's not the worst squad in the world," Ten Hag said with a grin.

"They have so many choices what they can make but they often prefer to play them together. So, that tells something about the quality Fred has and what he can contribute to the team.

"He has done it several times with his performance for instance against Tottenham, for instance against Manchester City.

"When he's coming on [in the] last game [against Reading], he's scoring a goal straight away. He has a lot of qualities. I think they are a really good combination, Casemiro and Fred."

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