Hodgson to call on ‘unknown quantity’ against Man United

Matt Stead

Roy Hodgson has admitted “unknown quantity” rookie Freddie Ladapo could be the solution to Crystal Palace’s striker crisis at Manchester United.

Palace are the only team left in Europe’s big five leagues still to claim any points, and on Saturday they could equal Portsmouth’s Premier League record of seven straight losses from the start of 2009/10.

Manager Hodgson believes the Eagles have been struck by a “plague of injuries”, confirming his sole front-line striker Christian Benteke will be sidelined for six weeks with knee trouble.

Ex-Colchester youth product Ladapo joined Palace from Margate in 2016 but has yet to feature in a competitive fixture for the first team, however he could now line up for his Premier League debut at Old Trafford.

“Freddie Ladapo has been training with the first team for quite a while now,” said Hodgson, of the rookie 24-year-old.

“He’s an unknown quantity, for me certainly, because I haven’t had the chance to see him in action at this sort of level.

“He hasn’t played a lot of games for managers otherwise as well, so there’s not a lot of information in the club as to how he would react.

“But in the current situation where we find ourselves, where we really don’t have the cover or the back-up for Christian Benteke, the fact he’s training every day and he’s a centre forward puts him very much in the frame.”

Palace have lost all six Premier League encounters so far, leaking 13 goals without reply – and five at Manchester City last weekend.

Hodgson insisted Palace are not close to drafting in a free agent to ease their striker shortage, but conceded that winger Bacary Sako is another option to start up front at Old Trafford.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek has a thigh strain, while James Tomkins is sick and Conor Wickham and Wilfried Zaha remain long-term absentees.

“Christian Benteke has medial ligament damage which will keep him out for a minimum of six weeks,” said Hodgson.

“We’ve been hit by a plague of injuries at a time when we could have done without it.

“Bacary Sako was bought as a left-winger who can score goals.

“He doesn’t have much experience up front where he played in the League Cup against Huddersfield, but we were satisfied with his performance that day, and the fact he scored.

“To be brutally honest it’s not easy to find players who are out of work who are good enough to come into the Premier League and make us better.

“We’re not the only club with an eye to anyone who may just be available and willing to come and work on even perhaps a short-term contract.”

When asked whether free agent and former England striker Carlton Cole could be an option, Hodgson said: “He hasn’t been mentioned.

“Whether sporting director Dougie Freedman has actually spoken about him or thought about him I can’t answer, but I doubt it, because he would have mentioned that to me.”