Manchester United have already played 50 games this season, in what is quickly becoming a marathon slog for Erik ten Hag’s side, but there are few fans that could call his first term at the helm anything less than a success.
Ten Hag has brought an end to United’s seven-year trophy drought, beaten rivals Liverpool, Arsenal and Man City, reinvigorated a squad that looked destitute and devoid of confidence, and could still add an FA Cup and Europa League before the end of this long campaign – which should also see the Red Devils return to the top four.
It has been an undeniably impressive start to his time at United, but he now faces his toughest challenge, with injuries beginning to mount up around a relentless schedule that has already piqued the Dutchman’s ire, including Lisandro Martinez who is out for the remainder of the campaign, with Raphael Varane also doubtful to appear again.
Worse still, talisman Bruno Fernandes is now suspended for the Europa League quarter-final second leg clash at Sevilla, after picking up another yellow on Thursday night at Old Trafford.
With seven games still to come in 22 days, there is now a growing pile of issues that are threatening to derail all the work that Ten Hag and his side have worked for this season.
Erik ten Hag’s side are entering a decisive period in their season but could be without several key players including Marcus Rashford
Bruno Fernandes picked up a yellow card on Thursday and will not face Sevilla next week
Raphael Varane was substituted at half-time against Sevilla after picking up a first-half injury
While United have undoubtedly come on leaps and bounds this term – after finishing with an all-time low of 58 points in 2021-22 – there have still been stumbling blocks along the way.
The 7-0 hammering against Liverpool, a loss to Sociedad at Old Trafford , a goalless draw against bottom-of-the-table Southampton and defeats by City and Arsenal – it has not all gone their way this season.
But they have been able to bounce back from disappointment this term, and a large part of this has been down to the quality of individuals, with Marcus Rashford in particular in the middle of a breath-taking purple patch.
Rashford’s 28 goals and 10 assists have been crucial to his side’s return to prominence in the English game, and he has made a point of scoring in the big moments, too.
Six goals in six in the victorious Carabao Cup run, as well as decisive strikes against Barcelona, Arsenal, Liverpool, highlight how far the 25-year-old has come under Ten Hag, developing into a leader in the Red Devils’ dressing-room.
His irrepressible surge has been halted somewhat by a groin injury sustained against Everton, leaving Ten Hag in a lurch, with only the injury-prone Anthony Martial and goal-shy Wout Weghorst able to deputise up front.
Rashford’s is not the only absence that will send tremors through the club as they enter the decisive point in a season that started with embarrassing back-to-back defeats but could still end with a trio of cup winners’ medals.
Against Sevilla on Thursday, both Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane left the field injured, and their absence in the game was soon felt.
Lisandro Martinez was carried off the field by compatriots Marcos Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel
Wout Weghorst has struggled in front of goal with just two strikes in his 21 Man United games
Club captain Harry Maguire is set to play an important role in the absence of the club’s first-choice centre-backs
With both first-choice centre-backs off the pitch, United let slip a two-goal lead late in the game with their leadership, composure and calm at the back a notable absence to the late exchanges.
Martinez for sure is set to miss the rest of the season, while Varane is also likely to have played his last game this term.
The club said: ‘Lisandro Martinez has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after fracturing a metatarsal bone in his foot.
‘However, the Argentinian defender is expected to make a full recovery in time to be ready for the start of next season.’
United will also be without fellow centre-back Varane for some key matches, saying he ‘is expected to be out for a few weeks.’
As a result, Ten Hag will have to negotiate at least the next few games without three of his preferred back four, with Luke Shaw also on the sidelines since picking up a leg issue against Brentford earlier in April.
Add Fernandes into the mix, and it is likely that United will face the Europa League’s record winners without five of their best XI. Hardly the best news ahead of one of the biggest games of the season.
Fernandes’ absence can be filled by Christian Eriksen – yet to start a game since returning from injury – and Martial can deputise for Rashford, but that leaves United’s fate in the hands of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof at the back.
Those injuries and suspensions are a bitter blow indeed – but there could be more to come with United still to play a possible 15 games before the end of the season as the games come thick and fast for Ten Hag.
It’s not just the quantity of the games, but the calibre of those fixtures, with at least one quarter-final and semi-final in the next seven games, as well as clashes with top four rivals Brighton and Tottenham and a resurgent Aston Villa in the league.
First up is a trip to a Nottingham Forest side that has lost just once in the league at home since September, before the second leg of the Europa League quarter-final tie and an FA Cup semi against high-flying Brighton all within one week.
That flurry is followed by a trip to Spurs, a home tie with Unai Emery’s Europe-chasing Aston Villa, a visit to Amex Stadium and a clash against a West Ham side deep in a relegation battle.
The returns of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen will provide a much-needed boost to Ten Hag
United face two clashes with Roberto De Zerbi’s high-flying Brighton in quick succession
Anthony Martial has struggled for regular game time once more this season but is set to feature heavily in the run-in
What will give Ten Hag some optimism is the fact that the vast majority of his squad have had minutes at times this term, with a total of 30 players featuring in 2022-23 in some capacity.
Only Anthony Martial (861), Anthony Elanga (699) and Facundo Pellistri (208) have managed fewer than 1000 minutes of the senior squad members to start the season at United. Even Marcel Sabitzer has racked up 827 since his January arrival.
With so many injuries there would be a risk of losing the momentum and intensity of the Dutchman’s tactical style, but with so many players having taken to the field that will surely be less of a concern.
That being said, goals will surely be a concern heading into this final stretch. Reports suggest that Rashford might recover in time to face Sevilla on Thursday, and every United fan across the world will have their fingers cross.
Over 25 per cent of their goals have come from Rashford (28/88), and the only other player to reach double figures in 2022-23 – Fernandes – is out of the trip to Spain in a week.
Martial and Antony both have seven, with Fred scoring six, but the numbers belie an over-reliance on Rashford – in comparison, City have four players on double figures, while Arsenal and Liverpool have three.
It makes for difficult reading for Ten Hag with a season-defining string of games to paly without half of his starting XI and his main source of goals, but there is some good news.
Casemiro’s latest suspension has now been served, and although Eriksen, Sabitzer, Fred and Scott McTominay are all available in midfield – and Fernandes only absent for the Sevilla clash – the importance of his return to the middle of the park cannot be understated.
United must take on a West Ham side deep in the relegation battle and fighting for every point
Marcel Sabitzer has featured heavily despite only joining in January from Bayern Munich
Casemiro has been a key figures at Old Trafford making an impact at both ends of the pitch
United are undeniable a better side with the Brazilian in the team. They have lost only three games that he has started, keeping 14 clean sheets along the way, and have scored at least three goals on 12 occasions, with the 30-year-old proving decisive at both ends of the pitch.
He was in action against Sevilla on Thursday, but his return to the fold domestically will surely prove a weight off the manager’s shoulders in pursuit of the FA Cup and a top four finish.
Champions League qualification and a piece of silverware would have been largely in line with the demands laid at Ten Hag’s feet as he arrived at Old Trafford for the first time, and he looks set to deliver on that.
Only time will now tell if the Dutchman can go above and beyond those expectations, and now his side must prove they have what it takes to overcome the issues in their path – a trait that all the top teams must possess.
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Sports Event Casino Handicap Description
|PK||0||It means not giving in to each other, and winning 1 point wins all.|
|0-50||0/0.5||Indicates that when the handicap team is tied with the transferee team, the team betting on the handicap loses 50%.|
|0 loss||0.5||Indicates that when the handicap team is tied with the transferee team, the team betting on the handicap loses.|
|1+50||0.5/1||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the team betting on the handicap wins 50% and wins all 2 points.|
|1 level||1||Indicates that when the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the two teams will tie and win by 2 points.|
|1-50||1/1.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the team betting on the handicap loses 50% and wins all 2 points.|
|1 loss||1.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the team betting on the handicap loses all and wins by 2 points.|
|2+50||1.5/2||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the team betting on the handicap wins 50% and wins all 3 points.|
|2 flat||2||Indicates that when the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the two teams will tie and win all 3 points.|
|2 losses||2/2.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the team betting on the handicap loses 50% and wins all 3 points.|
|3+50||2.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the team betting on the handicap loses all and wins all 3 points.|
|3 losses||2.5/3||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the team betting on the handicap wins 50%, and all 4 points win.|
|3 levels||3||Indicates that when the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the two teams will tie and win all 4 points.|
|3-50||3/3.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the team betting on the handicap loses 50% and wins all 4 points.|
|3 losses||3.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the team betting on the handicap loses all and wins all 4 points.|
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