Man United's injury list shows the lack of cover in ten Hag's side

Manchester United’s growing injury list highlights the concerning lack of cover within Erik ten Hag’s side… it’s forced the Red Devils boss to be picky with his starting line-ups this season

  • Manchester United’s injury list has been an issue for the club through the season 
  • Ten Hag has coped with injuries to Christian Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes and more 
  • Their lack of depth has proved to be an issue for the Red Devils in their campaign

Erik ten Hag has been able to name his first-choice midfield of Bruno Fernandes, Christian Eriksen and Casemiro just seven times this calendar year, of which United have won six and drawn one.

On the only occasion since January, they comfortably beat Nottingham Forest 2-0 away.

It suggests that when the Manchester United manager can name his strongest XI, his team are a match for anyone but when injuries and suspensions kick in, the standards drop alarmingly.

The latest damning evidence was witnessed in Thursday’s embarrassing 3-0 Europa League exit against Sevilla when Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Alejandro Garnacho were injured, Fernandes suspended and Marcus Rashford and Luke Shaw only fit enough to start on the bench.

With Victor Lindelof the only available senior centre-half available for Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final against Brighton at Wembley, Ten Hag has to balance his desire to use his trusted midfield trio or shift Casemiro to an emergency role to counteract a dangerous opponent.

Manchester United have struggled to cope with a number of injuries in their squad this year

Erik ten Hag has had to be selective with his line-ups, highlighting their lack of cover

The lack of strength in depth at United has the alarm bells ringing for a hugely significant transfer window this summer. Ten Hag wants two reliable players for each position in order to challenge for the top trophies otherwise they’ll have to remain content with lesser pots like the Carabao Cup which they’ve already won this season.

The truth is key players like Fernandes and Rashford will continue to risk burn out or injury if they can’t be rotated. Rashford, who recently missed three games with a muscular injury, has scored nearly three times the amount of goals as any of his team-mates. He has 28 for the season with Fernandes (10) the only other player in double figures.

Wout Weghorst, signed as a loan striker in January, has scored just twice in 23 appearances.

The United manager isn’t hiding from the fact he’s been stretched. ‘If the squad is strong, you have double the quality in every position. We have to acknowledge we’ve had problems because we haven’t had the numbers especially in the front line,’ he states. 

‘Sometimes you are forced to make decisions to win the next game (and can’t rest certain players). Naming the same team does help you get you into a rhythm but when you play a lot of matches and the load is getting higher, you need to rotate.

‘This season has been crazy with the World Cup in the middle. I think we’ve maybe played the most matches of any team in Europe and have players in the squad who have really had a lot of games.’

United would consider letting up to 17 of their current squad leave this summer if the terms were right as they seek to raise funds in order to make further quality signings.

But the situation is complicated by uncertainty over the club ownership with the Glazers looking at bids. Whether the Glazers would therefore sanction a £100million move for Victor Osimhen, Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham or Declan Rice is open to doubt, frustrating Ten Hag’s wish for two top players for each position. 

Christian Eriksen was sidelined with an ankle injury in January after a tackle by Andy Carroll

The criticism following the Sevilla debacle have been heavy, particularly towards keeper David de Gea and Maguire. De Gea, who is in contract talks, is likely to keep his spot for Wembley due to a lack of competition but Maguire is suspended.

Even so, Ten Hag’s big picture view is the team have improved since his first game in charge, a 2-1 home defeat against Brighton in August when the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo still loomed large.

‘I hope everyone sees that we have made progress and developed. I think we are a different team now,’ said the manager. ‘We also know we have steps to go. I said after Seville that while no team will always play at the highest level, you still have to win when you don’t. That is what we have to learn. How to deal with setbacks.’

The future will be put on hold for 90 minutes on Sunday as Ten Hag aims to stay on course to wining a second trophy in his debut season. ‘You have to look short and long term but in this moment, it’s a semi-final and one big opportunity.’

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