Donny van de Beek suffered a painful looking injury in midweek which threatens to sideline him for weeks if not several months.
The full diagnosis is still be waited on although the club website said it is ‘certain’ Van de Beek will miss tonight’s game, with manager Erik ten Hag telling his press conference: “We are still doing investigations.
Van de Beek’s leg appeared to turn in an unnatural angle and there is a risk it is broken, which would rule him out for the rest of the season.
This creates a problem for Erik ten Hag to solve, creating an over-reliance on Bruno Fernandes at the attacking midfield position, and Shola Shoretire may get an opportunity to become the solution.
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United need options in attacking midfield
United don’t have the cash to spend on a back-up attacking midfielder this month, not when the club are scrabbling around for funds to sign a striker.
Van de Beek was capable of filling in for Fernandes, and this was where he started in midweek, with the Portuguese star playing out wide.
Next week in the Carabao Cup quarter-final against Charlton, United will be without both, with Van de Beek injured and Bruno Fernandes suspended.
This situation will focus Erik ten Hag on the problem at hand, forcing him to assess what to do if Fernandes was unavailable.
There is an easy answer for Tuesday’s game, to select Christian Eriksen in Fernandes’ role. This was regarded for years as his best position, before his recent switch to a deeper lying midfielder.
While this is a solution for United, it also removes one of the club’s four reliable central midfield options, with Eriksen competing with Casemiro, Fred and Scott McTominay.
Fortunately there are youngsters who can be used as depth here, Zidane Iqbal and Kobbie Mainoo on the fringes of the team. Both could be in the squad against Charlton.
But with Eriksen terrific in his deeper lying role this season, Ten Hag has reason to want to keep him there. So it would be better to find a different cover, longer term, for Fernandes.
Shoretire could be set for first team promotion
This could turn out to be the opportunity which 18-year-old talent Shola Shoretire has been waiting for. He was pictured training with the first team last week, and has made the matchday squad three times this season.
Shoretire was named this week by FourFourTwo as one of the 50 most exciting teenagers in world football. He would love an opportunity to start kicking on at first team level, between now and the end of the season.
The teenager made his debut in February 2021 under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, becoming the seventh youngest Manchester United player of all time to make his first team bow.
He led the under-21s last season with 20 goal contributions in all competitions (nine goals and 11 assists), and this season he is also the team’s top contributor, leading the under-21s with five goals and three assists.
He has 51 under-21 league games under his belt already at 18, and these have included 21 goals.
It is time he stepped up, either on loan, or at first team level – and given Van de Beek’s injury, it would be an unwise decision to send Shoretire out, when he could be used as cover.
One of the matches Erik ten Hag named him in the first team squad for was the away game at Real Sociedad, an important fixture, and he is clearly on the manager’s radar.
Van de Beek’s injury is very unfortunate, cruel luck where his frustrating Manchester United career is concerned. But this simply creates a gap in the squad which needs filling, and Shoretire has been awaiting his chance.