For the first time in Erik ten Hag era, Bruno Fernandes&apos name will be missing from the teamsheet at Old Trafford. The 28-year-old, who has scored three goals and registered five assists so far this term, will miss the clash with the League One Addicks through suspension, after picking up his second yellow card of the Reds&apos Carabao Cup campaign against Burnley in the last round.
The Portuguese international has been an almost ever-present figure for Ten Hag so far this season, missing just one match in all competitions, that also being because of a suspension-related punishment. He missed the 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa at Villa Park in November after being awarded his fifth Premier League booking of the season a week earlier in the 1-0 win over West Ham United.
Therefore, the visit of Charlton will mark United&aposs first home game without Fernandes since the 3-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur last March. Although his goals and assists tallies are not as high as he would necessarily like them to be so far this term, he has played an important role in the club&aposs progression under Ten Hag.
His absence, although changes are likely to be made by Ten Hag against the Londoners, creates a selection problem for the Dutchman, not helped by the absence of Donny van de Beek. He was forced off during last Tuesday night&aposs 3-0 win over Bournemouth and it remains unclear how long he will be sidelined for.
When Fernandes missed the defeat to Villa earlier this season, Van de Beek stepped into the side in his absence, claiming responsibility for the attacking-midfield berth. He had an afternoon to forget at Villa Park, registering a paltry 18 touches of the ball, meaning he had no influence on the game, operating in the position Ten Hag, back in pre-season, described as his best.
But considering United are up against League One opposition, Van de Beek would have been in line to start in the No.10 berth in Fernandes&apos absence. But with both of them unavailable, Ten Hag has a difficult call to make when selecting who he believes will be best suited to performing as the Reds&apos most advanced-midfield player.
Christian Eriksen is an experienced operator in the attacking-midfield berth and would be a natural fit, but Ten Hag has resisted the temptation of moving him forward so far this season, instructing him to operate in a slightly deeper role and operate alongside Casemiro, with whom he has developed an excellent partnership. Although that is a solution Ten Hag could consider to this particular conundrum, he also has to bear in mind the fact that United have the derby against Manchester City on Saturday, the first of three league games in the space of just nine days, following the late insertion of a rearranged trip to Crystal Palace next Wednesday night.
With that said, Ten Hag might use the clash with Charlton as an opportunity to consider resting Eriksen, allowing him the chance to recharge the batteries ahead of three important league games. If that proves the case, his attacking-midfield options become even fewer.
Fred started in the role against Real Sociedad at Old Trafford back in September and failed miserably, meaning that is an experiment that ought not to be repeated, even if this time around it would be, with respect, against lesser opposition. All of the pointers, therefore, suggest that the clash with Charlton could be the perfect opportunity for Ten Hag to give Zidane Iqbal the opportunity his performances in friendlies have deserved.
He impressed on the pre-season tour during the summer and left his calling card in the two friendlies in Spain last month, producing eye-catching displays against both Cadiz CF and Real Betis. He has not played a single minute worth of first-team football this season and a meeting with a League One side feels like the prime opportunity for him to get his chance.
Following his impressive cameo performance against Melbourne Victory back in July, the youngster admitted that he would be happy to play as a No.10 if Ten Hag needed him to. This, therefore, could be the ideal opportunity for him to prove his worth.
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