Erik ten Hag will hope to have injured Manchester United ‘leader’ back at perfect time vs Sevilla
Erik ten Hag will hope to welcome a few of his injured stars when Manchester United face Sevilla in their all-important Europa League quarter-final second leg on Thursday.
United should have been flying to Spain with a healthy lead, but saw own-goals from Tyrell Malacia and Harry Maguire turn 2-0 into 2-2 in the space of eight minutes in the dying embers of the first leg at Old Trafford. But more concerning to Ten Hag would have been the injuries of Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane.
The pair joined an ever-growing list of United absentees last week, one that became longer still before the 2-0 win at Forest with Malacia not involved due to a sore knee and Marcel Sabitzer pulling out in the warm-up. Ten Hag had hoped to have Luke Shaw back for the trip to the City Ground, with the left-back having missed the previous two matches through injury.
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Unfortunately, the 27-year-old did not make it in time but Ten Hag’s optimism suggests a return on Thursday is likely, and it would be perfectly timed. Malacia was at fault for Sevilla’s opening goal last week, switching off as Jesus Navas darted in behind, while Sunday’s win at Forest saw Diogo Dalot shoe-horned on the left.
Ten Hag will be desperate to see Shaw return, not only for the fact that he is a natural left-back but for his vast experience. The England international endured a staggered start to this season, dropped after two dismal defeats against Brighton and Brentford.
But his return for the win over Liverpool sparked an impressive run of form, with Ten Hag praising his defender’s leadership qualities after the 2-1 Manchester derby win in January.
“From the first day in training at pre-season he was working really hard and you can see when he has the right approach he’s a top player,” the Dutchman said. “I don’t mean only as a team player; he’s a leader. He’s shown a lot of leadership capacities – he’s the example at this moment – and with his skills and his physical power he brings a lot.
“Now, also with his mentality. He’s an example of how to win big games. I’m really happy with his development. It’s been huge either at centre-half or left full-back. He’s a great player and a great personality for the dressing room.”
United face a huge task in coming away from the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan with a place booked in the semi-final, particularly given the injuries to key players. Ten Hag will be without his first-choice defensive pairing, his top goalscorer in Marcus Rashford and the ever-present Bruno Fernandes.
The Dutchman will need all the big-game experience he can muster on Thursday evening, and Luke Shaw’s return would go some way to alleviating any concerns.
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