Christian Eriksen has been ruled out for three months with an ankle injury but manager Erik ten Hag believes Manchester United have the players to cope with the key midfielder’s absence.
The 30-year-old has slotted into life at Old Trafford seamlessly since joining as a free agent in the summer, making 31 appearances in all competitions.
Eriksen has played a vital role as United fight on four fronts but will now have to watch from the sidelines after suffering an ankle injury in Saturday’s 3-1 FA Cup win against Reading.
The club said he will be out for an “extended period” following the challenge by Andy Carroll, who was later sent off, and that “initial assessments indicate that Eriksen is likely to be out until late April or early May.”
Speaking shortly after United confirmed the severity of the injury, Ten Hag said: “Of course he’s disappointed about it, we are disappointed about it.
“But it happens in top football. We sooner it (didn’t) happen but it did and you have to deal with it.”
United have already lost Donny van de Beek for the remainder of the campaign and the severity of Eriksen’s injury has led onlookers to wonder whether they could act on deadline day.
“As you said, on deadline day it’s difficult,” Ten Hag said.
“You can’t make policy on such bad injuries, but we have players in the midfield department and good players. We have players who can fill that gap.”
Put to Ten Hag that United did not appear to have anyone that can come in and do what Eriksen has brought to the side, he said: “But I think you can never fill that because every player has his own characteristics, identity.
“Another player will always fill it in a different way but that doesn’t mean you have to be less successful.
“It’s quite clear that Christian Eriksen brings top quality to our squad and especially he has some specifics that are hard to replace.
“For instance, his impact in the final third with the final ball.”
Scott McTominay was absent for the match against Reading and injured Eriksen was replaced by substitute Fred, who produced a solid display and scored with an audacious flick.
“He’s playing together with Casemiro in the Brazilian squad,” Ten Hag said of the latter. “I would say that’s not the worst squad in the world.
“They have so many choices that they can make but they often prefer to play them together so that tells something about the quality Fred has and what he can contribute to the team.
“He did it several times. When I see his performance, for instance, against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, when he’s coming on last game he scores a goal.
“He has a lot of qualities. I think they are a really good combination, Casemiro and Fred.”
The injury to Eriksen has rocked United as they head into a season-defining month that kicks off with the second leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final and should end with a trip to Wembley.
Ten Hag’s side head into Wednesday’s meeting with Nottingham Forest leading 3-0 from the first leg, meaning questions focused on injuries and potential transfer activity in the pre-match press conference.
Anthony Elanga, Facundo Pellistri and Brandon Williams have been linked with a loan exit before Tuesday evening’s deadline – a prospect the Dutchman suggested may be possible.
“Yeah, could be (that they leave),” Ten Hag said when asked about the trio. “But it depends on certain circumstances.
“If so, that would be likely loans, yeah.”
United have only brought in Wout Weghorst and Jack Butland on loan this month – quite the contrast to the spending being done by clubs like Chelsea this January.
“I can’t talk for other clubs,” Ten Hag added. “I’m talking for our club.
“We have a strategy so we keep that strategy, where we want to go. We want to restore Manchester United to where they belong.
“We are in a good direction so also it has to match our financial frames.
“We started in the season and now we keep consistent to that plan and to that strategy.
“I think we’re developing as a club, developing as a squad, in the way of play.
“I think you see also the results in that process, so we make the right progress. We have to keep that process going and improving every day.”