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Manchester United need one more profile before the transfer window shuts



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Credit: IMAGO / PA Images

Looking at Manchester United’s current squad, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Erik ten Hag needs one more midfielder before the January transfer window closes.

Against Reading on Saturday evening, Christian Eriksen was subject to an unfortunate challenge by Andy Carroll, with the Dane leaving Old Trafford on crutches.

The Manchester United midfielder has been brilliant under Erik ten Hag so far, registering more assists (9) than any other player in the squad in all competitions this season.

Despite this, there has been calls that he should not be playing as often as he has in recent times, particularly against opposition who aim to overrun the midfield and dominate the game; such as when United were beaten 3-2 at the Emirates by Arsenal.

Eriksen, for all his creative brilliance, is not a defensive minded player – and this is demonstrated by his defensive statistics. Eriksen is in the bottom 20 percentile for tackles, interceptions, blocks, and aerial duels won in comparison to other midfielders.

Ten Hag does have some level of depth in his squad. Fred has had some fantastic performances off the bench, scoring one and assisting one on Saturday evening, and there is also Scott McTominay, who is currently injured – but there is certainly a gap in the squad that needs filling in relation to a rotation-midfielder to help navigate the upcoming schedule and cover for injuries such as Eriksen.

The profile United need is one who can sit level with Casemiro and help take some of the defensive load off the brilliant Brazilian.

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As was shown against Reading, Casemiro loves to get involved further forward, making a perfect darting run for his first goal and loading a wonderful low strike for his second. He has 9 goal contributions across all competitions for United this season, and 5 of these have come in his last six appearances, proving his worth further forwards as well as covering the back line.

In order for Erik ten Hag to utilise this properly, he will need a defensive profile in order to make up for the gap caused when Casemiro heads forwards, something Eriksen, Fred, and McTominay just can’t cover.

Casemiro’s ability further up the field has taken quite a few off guard considering the role he build and sustained at Real Madrid alongside Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, where he was the deepest of the three, sweeping up behind the other two almost as a one-man wall.

There is an argument to be made that Ten Hag should look to the academy to try and plug the gap, with players such as Zidane Iqbal and Kobbie Mainoo waiting in the wings for their chance to impress as the season progresses, and this might have to be the solution.

With just two days left in the window, the chances of Manchester United being able to secure such a profile are slim – a deal such as the one that brought Wout Weghorst on a six-month loan deal might be the best way to go about it.

Therefore, Ten Hag may be forced to consider his academy in order to compensate for the lack of depth if a signing cannot be utilised.

Previous examples show that the Dutchman is not afraid to use his academy if he deems the player good enough, proved by the use of Alejandro Garnacho off the bench on numerous occasions in which United are chasing a game, such as against Manchester City and Aston Villa, with Garnacho assisting the winning goal in both games.

But one thing is for sure – depth is certainly needed in midfield.