Ten Hag turns to Fred to fill Eriksen gap
MANCHESTER – Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag believes that the injured Christian Eriksen is tough to replace but has urged other members of his squad to step up and fill the “gap” while the Danish midfielder is on the sidelines.
The 30-year-old suffered an ankle injury in the 3-1 FA Cup fourth-round win against Reading over the weekend, and United confirmed on Tuesday he has been ruled out of action for up to three months, dealing a significant blow to the club’s hopes for the remainder of the season.
The Red Devils are preparing to host Nottingham Forest in the second leg of their League Cup semi-final on Wednesday – they lead 3-0 from the first leg – and ten Hag was asked about Eriksen on Tuesday and whether there would be replacements before the transfer window closed on the same day.
“Of course he’s disappointed about it, we are disappointed about it. But it happens in top football. We wish (it didn’t) happen but it did and you have to deal with it,” he said.
“As you said, on deadline day is difficult (to sign a replacement), you can’t make policy on bad injuries. We have good players in the midfield department, players who can fill the gap.
“I think you can never fill that gap (completely) because very player has his own characteristics. Another player will always fill in a different way, but it doesn’t mean you have to be less successful.
“It’s quite clear Christian Eriksen brings top quality to our squad and he has some specifics that are hard to replace, such as his impacts in the final third with his final ball.”
The United boss also said that Fred would be the midfielder who will benefit the most from Eriksen’s absence.
“He’s playing together with Casemiro in the Brazil squad... Brazil have so many choices they can make, but they play together and that tells you something about the quality Fred has and what he can contribute to the team.
“He has a lot of qualities, and they’re a good combination, Casemiro and Fred.”
On the bright side, ten Hag is now potentially only two games away from winning United’s first trophy since they won the Europa League under Jose Mourinho in 2017.
The 3-0 victory at the City Ground last week meant he is able to rest his first-team players with three Premier League matches – against Crystal Palace and Leeds twice – coming up in the next 10 days.
No team who have held a three-goal lead from the first leg of a League Cup semi-final have ever lost, so the odds are looking good for United.
Forest, meanwhile, are suffering from a flu bug in their squad and a long injury list, which will make it even harder for them to conjure up a miracle on Wednesday.
Last week’s defeat was their eighth in a row against United in all competitions, and not since the 1994-95 Premier League season have Forest won at Old Trafford.
“We were obviously disappointed with the first leg, but that’s the situation,” said Forest boss Steve Cooper.
“It’s obviously an incredibly tough task to qualify.” - REUTERS
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