Erik ten Hag reviews Brighton
Erik ten Hag will have looked at his diminished squad against Brighton and Hove Albion with cautious optimism that Manchester United’s injury issues couldn’t possibly worsen. But it has. Just days after the humbling 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford, United have confirmed the latest casualty in an extraordinary crisis.
Ten Hag missed four likely starters in his strongest team on Saturday: Raphael Varane, Luke Shaw, Mason Mount and Antony.
The quartet joined Tom Heaton, Tyrel Malacia, Kobbie Mainoo, Amad, Jadon Sancho and Sofyan Amrabat as first-team stars unavailable for selection.
On Monday, Aaron Wan-Bissaka became the latest to fall out of contention after suffering a hamstring injury during his substitute appearance against the Seagulls.
It has left Ten Hag without three of his preferred back four ahead of a daunting Champions League trip to Bayern Munich and a crucial run of games before the next international break.
But the Dutchman may have a left-field solution up his sleeve, which many United fans won’t have expected.
Ahead of the weekend’s dismal outing on home soil, Ten Hag confirmed Amrabat’s absence but hailed the 27-year-old’s versatility.
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The United boss suggested that Amrabat could be an option to fill in for Wan-Bissaka at right-back rather than slotting into his midfield.
“What we missed in our squad was behind Casemiro, another one, a typical holding midfielder. So with him, we have one. You see the overload on games, so we need a type,” Ten Hag explained.
“But Amrabat can also play alongside Casemiro because he is also capable of playing in a higher position on the pitch. Also, he can play as a wing-back or full-back.”
Amrabat joined United on deadline day after holding out for a switch from Fiorentina, landing at Old Trafford on an £8.5million season-long loan with the option of a permanent move worth £21m.
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Many Red Devils supporters were desperate to see Amrabat join and inject some defensive order into the club’s disarrayed midfield.
But one of Morocco’s 2022 World Cup heroes may have to wait to feature in his natural position while Wan-Bissaka is sidelined.
Diogo Dalot started at right-back against Brighton, and Sergio Reguilon – who also joined on loan on deadline day – impressed on his debut.
If Ten Hag needs to push Dalot to the left again, though, it’s now clear that Amrabat will be in his thinking on the right side of the defence.
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