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How Marcel Sabitzer can help Manchester United in Christian Eriksen’s absence  |

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Manchester United are closing in on a Deadline Day deal to sign Bayern Munich midfielder Marcel Sabitzer on loan – how will the Austrian help Erik ten Hag’s side?

United’s need for a midfielder intensified after Christian Eriksen was ruled out until at least April with an ankle injury.

​​​​​​Austria international Sabitzer joined Bayern from RB Leipzig in the summer of 2021 but has started just seven games in the Bundesliga so far this season.

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Bayern midfielder Marcel Sabitzer was seen leaving Munich airport to finalise a deal to join Manchester United. Dharmesh Sheth reports

Predominantly a central midfielder, the 28-year-old has also played as a defensive midfielder, attacking midfielder, second striker and winger during his career.

Here Sky Sports News senior reporter Melissa Reddy explains why Sabitzer is a smart signing for United, especially in Eriksen’s absence…

Eriksen’s injury has ‘pained’ United

Man Utd's Christian Eriksen is set to miss three months with an ankle injury
Man Utd’s Christian Eriksen is set to miss three months with an ankle injury

“He can make the game for you,” Erik ten Hag so neatly framed when asked what Christian Eriksen offers Manchester United.

“He can make the switch of play, he sees a pass between the lines, makes the final pass and can go into attack to score a goal.”

Ten Hag: We’ll miss Eriksen’s quality

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag:

Eriksen left Old Trafford on crutches after being forced off in Saturday’s FA Cup win over Reading and now looks set to miss a significant amount of United’s run-in.

Speaking in a press conference ahead of United’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg with Nottingham Forest, Erik ten Hag explained he has options to cover Eriksen’s absence – but admitted it would be hard to replace the Dane’s quality in attacking areas.

“He’s disappointed and we’re disappointed, but it happens in top football. You have to deal with it,” the United boss said.

“We have players in midfield, good players, who can fill the gap. Every player has their own characteristics and identity. Eriksen brings top quality to our squad and some characteristics are hard to replace, for instance his quality in the final third.”

In summary: Eriksen is everything United were desperate for in a playmaker and has been crucial to the club’s colossal improvement in ball progression, their patience in build-up, and their ability to control and change tempo.

His contribution can be directly gleaned from data, but also materialises psychologically – as Diogo Dalot explained to Sky Sports News, “as soon as we see Eriksen is going to have a lot of time on the ball, that’s when everything starts to be more dynamic up front”.

Eriksen gets United moving

Eriksen has been an influential figure in United’s resurgence under Erik ten Hag

The Denmark international gets his team-mates moving and United tick.

The Eriksen-Casemiro-Bruno Fernandes combo has supplied United with a much-needed blend of technical intelligence, passing range, steel, invention and unpredictability.

The news that the Dane is out until April at the least due to an ankle injury sustained in the FA Cup win over Reading has pained United.

There is no alternative in the squad to function as what Ten Hag described as “like a six and eight role mix, he has a lot of freedom. He has to interchange with the spaces where he has to be and the rest have to adapt to that”.

While the manager insisted United “have players who can fill the gap”, he conceded that the absence of such a key cog can never be fully mitigated as every player has his own characteristics, identification – another player will always fill in in a different way.

“It’s quite clear Christian 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.”

United’s midfield lacking ‘experienced options’

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Manchester United’s head coach Erik ten Hag discusses who could replace Eriksen in midfield after it was announced injury will keep the Dane out for three months

While United can turn to Fred, who partners Casemiro in Brazil’s midfield, the centre of the pitch is light of experienced options.

Scott McTominay is “nursing a small problem” and a knee injury has ruled Donny van de Beek out for the rest of the season, which is why the recruitment team have been scanning Europe for loan options.

Enter Marcel Sabitzer from Bayern Munich. Sky Sports News has been told United’s initial interest was in his team-mate Ryan Gravenberch, who was on Liverpool’s midfield shortlist ahead of his switch to the Bundesliga giants.

The 20-year-old, coached by Ten Hag at Ajax, has been disillusioned by his lack of minutes at Bayern but the club had no intention of letting him leave this month and the player himself wants to fight for his place.

Merse: Sabitzer doesn’t get in the Bayern team – it’s panic!

Sky Sports’ Paul Merson speaking on Deadline Day:

“Marcel Sabitzer doesn’t get in the Bayern Munich team. I know they’ve got a two cemented in midfield but if he was that good he’d be pushing. Again it goes back to panic. There was no interest in him on January 1… You’re buying second-rate Bayern Munich players.

“This lad wasn’t on the radar before. He doesn’t get in the Bayern team – nowhere near their first team. You’ve got to ask ‘is he going to make us better?’ I’m not sure.”

Sabitzer a ‘clever addition’

Marcel Sabitzer celebrates after scoring against Freiburg
Sabitzer joined Bayern from RB Leipzig in the summer of 2021 but has started just seven games in the Bundesliga so far this season

On very short notice, in a horribly tight bind given the injury situation, Sabitzer is a clever addition on loan.

The Austria international offers versatility in the positions he can cover, having operated out wide but also in a free eight role similar to what Eriksen has had.

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Didi Hamann is surprised Manchester United and Chelsea are interested in Sabitzer as he is more attack minded than defensive

Comfortable with both feet which will aid United’s balance in possession, Sabitzer has the ability to progress the ball quickly and is also adept at protecting space, cutting off passing lanes using his cover shadow.

He is not a dribbler and will break lines with his passing rather than carries. The 28-year-old is a good presser, diligently wins the ball back and as former Austria coach Franco Foda detailed, “Marcel is a player who gives everything for 90 minutes, does a lot for the team and works a lot defensively”.

A chance for Sabitzer…

Marcel Sabitzer
United’s move for Sabitzer, who still has two-and-a-half years left on his contract, will be a loan with a buy clause inserted

Sabitzer’s shooting technique is excellent and he enjoys having a crack from outside the box.

He is a threat from distance as well as dead-ball situations.

Sabitzer was the engine and creative heartbeat of RB Leipzig before his switch to Bayern in the summer of 2021 saw his game stunted.

That has been largely on account of the presence of Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka.

There are minutes up for grabs at United for Sabitzer to remind the watching world of the midfielder that had Europe’s top recruitment teams on high alert.

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Paul Merson is not convinced Sabtizer is the right player for Chelsea and Manchester United and suggests it could be a ‘panic signing’

Manchester United’s next five fixtures…

  • Feb 1: Nottingham Forest (H) – Carabao Cup, kick-off 8pm (live on Sky Sports)
  • Feb 4: Crystal Palace (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
  • Feb 8: Leeds (H) – Premier League, kick-off 8pm
  • Feb 12: Leeds (A) – Premier League, kick-off 2pm (live on Sky Sports)
  • Feb 16: Barcelona (A) – Europa League, kick-off 5.45pm
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