It was supposed to be a tricky tie against Burnley in the EFL Cup due to big names being away because of the World Cup and the lack of match sharpness for a few.
Despite missing their top three centre-backs, Erik ten Hag’s side managed to make it to the quarterfinals of the Cup and now have a realistic chance of winning silverware.
But the Premier League is not as forgiving a stage and with Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers up next, the Dutchman has a massive hole to fix.
World Cup winner Lisandro Martinez and finalist Raphael Varane are not expected to be back before the year ends and that means the Red Devils will be without their top two centre-backs for the last two league games of the year.
Another major blow has been Harry Maguire‘s illness. The England centre-back lost his starting berth under the current manager but impressed with some fine displays for the Three Lions at Qatar.
The former Ajax boss has not revealed when the club captain is expected back. “Harry, unfortunately, he’s ill,” the Dutch boss told MUTV.
“It’s an issue because Rapha and Licha were in the World Cup final but we pick Case [Casemiro], he plays more often there and also Luke [Shaw] he reported himself: ‘I can play centre-half’ which is really good so they are all committed and they want to play.”
Casemiro did line up at the back for the Burnley game but his presence will be needed in midfield against superior sides.
👊🏼🗞 Ten Hag on Maguire’s availability: “I can’t answer because Harry is sick. I don’t know how that develops. We have to wait. Maybe the coming hours, maybe the coming days, and then we will see if he is available for Forest.” [MU] #MUFC pic.twitter.com/kgCEPDQMDy
— United Radar (@UnitedRadar) December 23, 2022
Gary Neville mentioned as much on Sky Sports after witnessing the Red Devils huff and puff their way to the quarterfinals of the EFL Cup.
“Martínez looks like he’s going to be at least a couple of weeks, Varane obviously he was injured and you don’t know when he’s going to come back.
ETH has a big problem to solve
“And if Harry Maguire ’s ill they’re going to go potentially with a really weakened defence into those Premier League games.
“I think if they had been playing against a Premier League team tonight they would have been punished, so they’ve got to get some players back quickly.”
The Scottish star has played in that position for Jose Mourinho and Solskjaer, not to mention for his national team.
That would allow Ten Hag to continue to play his preferred midfield pairing of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen which would in turn allow his team to dominate the ball and win back the ball as fast as possible.
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