The Lowdown: Three months out…
Erik ten Hag has been hit with an injury blow regarding the Denmark international, with the midfielder set to be ruled out for around three months with an ankle injury. The 30-year-old was making his 31st appearance of the season when he suffered the body blow against Reading in the FA Cup last weekend.
Marcel Sabitzer was duly brought in on transfer deadline day, with Eriksen’s importance reflected by him registering more assists than any other United player (seven) in the current Premier League campaign while also ranking highly for passes made per 90, as per WhoScored.
The Latest: Eriksen injury a ‘huge blow’
Whelan was talking to Football Insider regarding the injury update on Eriksen. The 48-year-old described it as a ‘huge blow’ and ‘massive’ setback for United, questioning whether or not Sabitzer can fit into Ten Hag’s side quickly.
The former Leeds striker said: “I think what they had with Eriksen, Fernandes, and Casemiro was really working. They were getting consistent performances out of all three.
“It’s a huge blow. Losing Eriksen is massive – his work rate, his range of passing, his delivery, his set pieces. You can’t replace a player like that because he has such quality. You just can’t do it.
“They’ve gone out on short notice to get Sabitzer in. Whether he can fit into that team, or whether they go with a Fred – it’s not going to be the same.
“Sabitzer, Fred, McTominay – they can all fill a void, but it’s not the same.”
The Verdict: Ten Hag facing midfield crisis…
If losing Eriksen wasn’t enough, United now look set to be without Casemiro for three Premier League fixtures after he was sent off against Crystal Palace on Saturday.
The Brazilian was dismissed for violent conduct and, assuming his suspension isn’t overturned, he will miss both games against Leeds United and one against Leicester City over the next fortnight.
That will leave Ten Hag with just three fit and available senior midfielders in Fred, Sabitzer and Bruno Fernandes, with Eriksen, Donny van de Beek and Scott McTominay all currently injured, so that first trio could be asked to feature heavily over the coming weeks.
Should anything happen to render them unavailable, it could leave United facing something of a midfield crisis.