Move over Fred: Ten Hag could ease MUFC’s Sabitzer blow with “superb” 20 y/o wizard

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As the season nears its conclusion, Manchester United has been dealt a blow after the club announced on Monday that Marcel Sabitzer, who joined the team in January, will miss the rest of the year.

The on-loan player from Bayern Munich had impressed since arriving at Old Trafford earlier this year, particularly being dubbed a “machine” by Diogo Dalot after scoring three goals and dishing out one assist in 18 games on all fronts.

The 29-year-old’s potential permanent stay in Manchester had been discussed prior to this most recent setback, but it is still unclear how this absence will affect the midfielder’s chances of remaining with the Red Devils beyond this season.

If you’re wondering how the departure of the former RB Leipzig player will affect United, manager Erik ten Hag has even fewer options in the middle of the pitch now that Donny van de Beek is already out for the season and Scott McTominay has recently missed time due to injury.

The only other senior option in the centre of the park, aside from the regular starting trio of Bruno Fernandes, Christian Eriksen, and Casemiro, is Fred. However, the Brazilian threat has recently fallen down the pecking order after starting just one league game since the 7-0 loss away to Liverpool in early March.

The 30-year-old made one start during that time, which came in the team’s loss to Brighton and Hove Albion earlier this month. However, Samuel Luckhurst of the Manchester Evening News writes that the former Shakhtar Donetsk player didn’t capitalise on his opportunity because he “was not remotely influential and too often sloppy with his passes.”

Ten Hag could instead turn to the academy ranks in order to find a suitable replacement for the injured Sabitzer in the first-team squad since the seasoned asset – who has been linked with a departure this summer – has had more than enough opportunities to impress.

Who might step in for Sabitzer at Man United?
With only three Premier League games remaining and the FA Cup final as well, there may not be many opportunities for young players to make an impact, but the former Ajax manager may use this as an opportunity to take a closer look at the team’s rising stars, such as teenage sensation Zidane Iqbal.

Although the 20-year-old has made an impression on Ten Hag, the Dutchman is said to have been taken aback by his preseason performances. The three-cap Iraqi international has yet to add to his only senior club appearance, which occurred during Ralf Rangnick’s interim tenure back in December 2021.

While covering the playmaker’s summer performances for Sky Sports, reporter Melissa Reddy observed that Iqbal “has heaps of technical quality, skill and intelligence” and that he is a player who “is not scared of making a mistake in trying to execute what he feels is the right decision.

With his “progressive carrier with superb vision” and ability to play in either central midfield position or an attack-minded creative role, the Manchester native has also been compared to longtime United target Frenkie de Jong. Talent Jacek Kulig also believes the £2k per week player has the qualifications to replace Sabitzer.

Iqbal is skilled at regaining possession of the ball; in his three EFL Trophy appearances, he averaged two of each of those two metrics, just like the tenacious Sabitzer, who has averaged 1.1 tackles and 0.7 interceptions per league game this season.

That should suggest that Ten Hag should consider the academy wizard as a possibility if he needs to bolster his midfield in the upcoming weeks.

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