Erik ten Hag was unhappy with the tackle that saw Alejandro Garnacho sustain a “serious” ankle injury and challenged the teenager to make a speedy recovery as Manchester United look to end the season with more silverware.
The 18-year-old was left writhing in pain following a challenge by Southampton full-back Kyle Walker-Peters in Sunday’s 0-0 draw but played on for seven minutes after receiving treatment.
Ten Hag initially downplayed concerns about the severity of the issue despite Garnacho being seen leaving Old Trafford on crutches with his right foot in a protective boot.
The teenager said on Tuesday he would “not be able to help my team and team-mates in the upcoming games” due to ankle ligament damage that rules him out of Argentina duty this month.
Garnacho misses United’s final two matches before the international break but Ten Hag hopes he still has a big part to play as they attempt to add the Europa League and FA Cup to their Carabao Cup triumph.
“I can’t say exactly (what the timescale is) at this moment but it will take weeks, so it’s a serious injury,” Ten Hag said.
“I didn’t expect (that) but a foul, a serious injury once again after Christian Eriksen (after a tackle by Reading’s Andy Carroll). We have a serious injury after contact.
“Of course it’s difficult. He makes great progression and he was selected by the national team.
“It was a big moment for him and he’s in a really good development and you don’t want to disturb that process.
“Now we have to step away from it but he will be back for the end of the season.
“So, what he has to do now is deal with it, deal with the setback and then work, invest to get back before the end of the season because (at the) end of the season, we can win a lot. So, he has to be ready to get back as soon as possible.”
Ten Hag fumed about “inconsistent” officiating on Sunday, with Casemiro’s second red card in five weeks compounding several rejected penalty appeals against Southampton.
The injury to Garnacho particularly irked the United boss, who already lost key midfielder Eriksen to a poor tackle by Reading striker Carroll in January’s FA Cup fourth-round tie.
“We have the injuries and we have the red cards,” he said with a despairing laugh. “What is the combination, eh?
“We have had some talks with (the refereeing bodies), yeah, but it’s not about the referee. It’s about us.
“We have to bring our performance and we have to focus on that.”
United are understood, like all clubs, to have an ongoing dialogue with the Premier League or Professional Game Match Officials Board but Ten Hag said there has been nothing since the Southampton game.
“No, I just comment on some decisions,” he said. “It was clear about Casemiro, it was the handball, it was a penalty situation with (Marcus) Rashford, it was a penalty situation probably with Bruno (Fernandes).
“It was the foul and bad injury on Garnacho, so there were some decisions you can discuss about.
“But now it’s gone. Now I look forward to the next game and tomorrow and focus on that.”
United head into Thursday’s match all but assured of progress to the Europa League quarter-finals having beaten Real Betis 4-1 at Old Trafford last week.
Casemiro and Bruno Fernandes would miss the first leg of that tie if they are booked in Spain, but the pair will play in Spain despite walking a suspension tightrope.
“They will play both because it’s a very good opponent,” Ten Hag said on the eve of the last-16 second leg – a match Antony misses through illness.
“Last week we had a good result, but we have to go again, then you need your best players because we need a result, we need a win. Then we need our best team.”
Meanwhile, United have confirmed they will head to the United States for their pre-season tour this summer.
The Red Devils have not been there since 2018 and the schedule will be revealed in the coming weeks.