Erik ten Hag’s emergency Manchester United plan might have to be used sooner than expected
Manchester United have had rotten luck with injuries this season and when it rains in Manchester, it always seems to pour. Erik ten Hag has been forced to contend with an unprecedented injury crisis and his language might have been colourful when checking his phone to read Marcus Rashford and Andre Onana had picked up problems on Friday.
Rashford sustained a knock playing for England against Malta and he was substituted in the second half of that game, although fortunately, the forward is not expected to have picked up anything serious.
“I think he’s probably okay,” said Gareth Southgate about Rashford. “We just thought given the nature of the collision, it was a chance to get Cole into the game. I haven’t assessed too much but I think Marcus was okay when he came off”.
Southgate could not give assurances but his press conference comments eased fears about Rashford. But the news might not be as reassuring on Onana after he left the pitch with an injury playing for Cameroon.
Onana was forced off after 81 minutes in Cameroon’s World Cup qualifier against Mauritius and the early suggestion was that he’s sustained an adductor injury, which could mean he’s facing a period on the sidelines. He will be assessed while on international duty, but depending on the severity of the problem, he could be out for anywhere between a week and a few months.
Onana has started every game for United this season and Ten Hag has persisted with him in the cup competitions, despite signing Altay Bayindir to be the back-up goalkeeper from Fenerbahce for £4.3million.
Bayindir was expected to play in the Carabao Cup and FA Cup, but he’s yet to make his debut and a Turkish reporter wanted to find out why he’s not been used in Ten Hag’s press conference before the Galatasaray game.
“We chose in the League Cup to play Andre because he [Bayindir] has to adapt to the England standard,” he explained. “That’s why we preferred Andre to play, but also we have to progress Altay, that’s clear.
“He’s made a very good impression in training and he’s really developing, so we’re really happy with it. We are convinced we have the two right goalkeepers in the squad to do the job for us.”
There have been chances to play Bayindir this season and they’ve been ignored. Ten Hag might soon regret that if Onana is ruled out for a significant period and his back-up ‘keeper might be needed sooner than expected.
Bayindir signed for United because of the stature of the club and because he was always bound to get chances in 2024, with Onana set to leave for the Africa Cup of Nations, which is hosted between January and February.
If Onana goes to the tournament with Cameroon – and that’s yet to be confirmed – he could be absent for fixtures against Tottenham, Wolves, West Ham and Aston Villa in the Premier League, depending on his nation’s results. He could also be absent for any FA Cup games during that period and United played nine matches last season during the dates that Onana could be at AFCON, meaning Bayindir will get opportunities to play.
Tom Heaton has only made three competitive appearances for United and he’s 37 years old, so it would be a shock if he was selected ahead of Bayindir should Onana be injured and if/when he goes to AFCON.
Bayindir has made over 150 senior appearances but it remains to be seen whether he can perform in the Premier League.
It would have been advisable for Bayindir to have been given his debut before it was necessary.