Man Utd injury blow set to test Erik ten Hag’s example of perfect substitute

Sarah Winterburn
PSG target Fred

Manchester United midfielder Christian Eriksen is likely to be sidelined until early May with an ankle injury, the club have announced.

Eriksen left Old Trafford on crutches on Saturday after being caught by Reading striker Andy Carroll in the FA Cup fourth-round tie.

A United statement read: “Christian Eriksen is expected to be out of action for an extended period because of an ankle injury sustained in our FA Cup victory over Reading on Saturday.

“Our Danish midfielder was withdrawn in the second half of the 3-1 win after being caught by a tackle from Reading striker Andy Carroll.

“While investigations are continuing, initial assessments indicate that Eriksen is likely to be out until late April or early May.”

United boss Erik ten Hag said: “Of course he’s disappointed about it, we are disappointed about it.

“”But it happens in top football. We sooner it (didn’t) happen but it did and you have to deal with it.”

Asked if he believes United had enough depth to cover Eriksen’s absence or whether they could make a deadline-day move, the Dutchman said: “As you said, on deadline day it’s difficult.

“You can’t make policy on such bad injuries but we have players in the midfield department and good players. We have players who can fill that gap.”

Eriksen has started 18 of Manchester United’s 20 Premier League games this season as he has formed a phenomenal partnership with Casemiro at the heart of the midfield; he has contributed seven assists in the league alone.

Against Reading he was replaced by Fred, who scored the third goal in a 3-1 win as well as assisting Casemiro’s second.

The Brazilian is likely to be Eriksen’s replacement in the coming months, with boss Erik ten Hag saying earlier this month: “We emphasise a lot of times that we’ve often had players who score goals when they come on from the bench, like Fred did last week. Every time when he’s coming on, he’s ready.

“He’s front foot and he brings the right quality to the game. That is great to have that as a team and as a manager.

“Of course, Fred wants to play every game. That’s not always possible and everyone has to battle for his position but there’s good competition in the squad to play and to get into the starting XI, but, once again, we need those players coming from the bench and giving impact to the game.

“Definitely, Fred is the one – there are others as well, but Fred is the example.”

Fred will now have to transition back to being a starter, with Roy Keane one sceptic, saying on ITV during the Reading game: “That’s probably what I think is his role – coming off the bench, particularly in games like this when the game is done.

“Reading fall asleep at a corner, United have looked a bit better on set pieces recently. He just walks in there, he’s obviously got a trick, lovely little finish. Poor from Reading, but lovely little finish.”

Manchester United face eight fixtures in February alone, with the second leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final with an already-beaten Nottingham Forest coming first on Wednesday night.

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