Man United manager Erik ten Hag may require the services of Zidane Iqbal against Charlton Athletic in the Carabao Cup.
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag faces a shortage in attacking midfield ahead of Tuesday’s Carabao Cup quarter-final at home to Charlton Athletic.
United, who have not faced a League One side in the competition since 1974, will be without Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek. Fernandes will miss out after picking up his second yellow card in as many Carabao Cup games in the last round against Burnley, while Burnley face a spell on the sidelines through injury.
Fernandes has started all but one of United’s games so far this season, missing out in November’s 3-1 Premier League defeat to Aston Villa after picking up his fifth booking of the league campaign. In his absence at Villa Park, Van de Beek was deputized in the No.10 position, joining Christian Eriksen and Casemiro in the engine room.
However, the Dutchman struggled to establish himself and registered just 18 touches of the ball before being hooked after 65 minutes. As disappointing as his performance was, the former Ajax man was the only contender to replace Fernandes at the top of the midfield diamond, such was the Ten Hag’s reluctance to break Eriksen’s partnership with Casemir and move the Dane into a more advanced role.
Eriksen is a seasoned attacking midfielder but has thrived as a deep-lying playmaker since his summer move to Old Trafford. It’s obviously the position in which The Hag sees him best in his system, meaning he’s unlikely to move him further forward against Charlton if given a starting position.
Should Eriksen remain in his deeper role or indeed be rested against the Addicks, with a view to Saturday’s clash with Manchester City, The Hag might be forced to dip a little deeper into his talent pool for a contender for the No.10 position. Fortunately for him, however, he has Zidane Iqbal, who has been patiently waiting to make his full United debut.
The youngster, who made his only senior appearance as a last minute substitute in the Champions League in December 2021, has not made a single start this season despite impressing. on a pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia as well as Spain last month during the World Cup break.
He is an exciting and technically gifted midfielder, meaning United fans have been clamoring for him to be given the opportunity to impress. Although he has yet to discover his true role, after an impressive second-half performance in the Reds’ 4-1 win over Melbourne Victory in July, he admitted he would be fine operating as an attacking midfielder if presented. with the occasion of Ten Hag.
“I don’t mind playing in a double pivot, as a No.10 or on the wing, wherever the manager asks me to play,” Iqbal told United View during the pre-season tour. “I played as a No.10 when I was younger, but you adapt your game a bit more as time goes on.
“But if it’s on the wing or anywhere, I don’t mind as long as I’m on the pitch.
With that admission in mind, a home draw against League One opposition, even with United’s aspiraaaaaaaaaaaaaaations of victory in the all-important quarter-final of the competition, feels like the ideal setting for Iqbal to translate his friendly performances onto the bigger stage. He is an exciting talent and his performances in friendlies have been encouraging.
There was a sense of surprise when he was not included in the squad against Burnley in the previous round, such was the impressiveness of his performances in Spain. But with Fernandes and Van de Beek unavailable for selection this time around, a spot in the center of attack feels like it could be waiting for him.