This exciting news comes within twenty-four hours of the club confirming that Christian Eriksen will be sidelined with an injury that will keep him out “until late April or early May” (manutd.com), following a malignant challenge from Andy Carroll during United’s FA Cup clash against Reading this past weekend. Eriksen’s skillset is unique, with no other United player previously in the squad possessing comparable attributes to be in line as a replacement in the starting eleven. Having already signed two players domestically on loan this transfer window, Manchester United had to look abroad, as it was paramount to sign a replacement quickly and decisively to continue to challenge on four fronts during the second half of the season.
While there aren’t many better players in world football who can rival Christian Eriksen’s set-piece ability and range of passing, Sabitzer is a more dynamic player who will bring something similar, yet different, to this growing side. The Austrian is very technical and provides a goal threat from a deep-lying position. He has a high work rate, but what’s most compelling is his versatility as a footballer.
Erik Ten Hag prefers players who are adept at playing multiple positions proficiently. Sabitzer is a “swiss army knife,” so to speak, capable of playing nearly every midfield and forward position. He’ll provide needed cover at attacking midfield, right-wing, and possibly even center forward. However, he will likely operate where Eriksen did, as a deep-lying midfielder in a double pivot. It will be interesting to see if United adapt to a more traditional 4-3-3 with Bruno Fernandes and Marcel Sabitzer operating as box-to-box number eights, with the defensive assurance of Casmiro playing as a single holding midfielder behind them. There are plenty of matches ahead, so Manchester United fans will almost certainly witness a variety of tactical deployments over the next four months.
The signing of Marcel Sabitzer continues to follow a trend under Erik Ten Hag of recruiting players with high levels of character and leadership ability. They want to play under the Dutch coach because his sporting ambition matches theirs. Sabitzer was Julian Naggelsman’s captain at RB Leipzig and was the German coach’s first transfer when he became manager of Bayern Munich. The Austrian also performs a similar role for the national team, filling in as captain if David Alaba is not in the starting eleven.
Manchester United have a legitimate player on their hands. Whether he can adapt to Ten Hag’s system quickly remains to be seen, but on paper, he checks all the boxes to succeed at Old Trafford. With a jam-packed schedule ahead for the second half of the season, the Austrian must settle in swiftly to help United strive for a trophy and finish in a Champions League position in the Premier League.
Header image from here