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How Erik ten Hag can fix Man Utd midfield in absence of Casemiro & Eriksen after Leeds draw

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Manchester United were left frustrated at the end of their match against Leeds United at Old Trafford on Wednesday night after failing to find a late winner in a 2-2 draw.

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The fact the Red Devils only got one point from the game will not be the primary concern for Erik ten Hag, though. He will be worried about how easily Leeds were able to move through the United midfield as they found themselves 2-0 up shortly after the break.

United’s first-choice midfield of Christian Eriksen and Casemiro are both out, and that led to a midfield two of Fred and Marcel Sabitzer.

This was United’s first match since Casemiro was shown a straight red card for his altercation with Will Hughes against Crystal Palace on Saturday. It coincided with Eriksen beginning his recovery period after an ankle injury against Reading in the FA Cup.

The Dane is expected to be out for near-enough the rest of the season which is why Sabitzer was brought in on loan from Bayern Munich at the end of the January transfer window. Ten Hag opted to start him against Leeds in place of Eriksen, while Casemiro’s role in the 4-2-3-1 was taken by Fred.

Fred is never going to be expected to have the same effect as Casemiro, but he put in a performance that was more reminiscent of his early days at Manchester United. His evening was littered with misplaced passes and unsuccessful attempts to win the ball in midfield.

Next to him, Sabitzer had some tidy touches with the ball but was largely ineffective. It is clear he is not yet on the same wavelength as his teammates going forward, but he did not look out of place from a physical perspective as he was amongst the tackles. Nonetheless, Leeds were able to run through the United midfield with ease for much of the game.

Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams had a very good match and amid the chaos, it was they who looked more assured.

Fred, Brenden Aaronson

Fred was tasked with leading the midfield against Leeds / Naomi Baker/GettyImages

United’s next match is, incidentally away at Leeds, thanks to a quirk of the fixture list and the rescheduling of matches when the Queen passed away. Leeds will likely set up in the same way as a point at Old Trafford was a great result for them.

Ten Hag could decide to bring Scott McTominay in as long as he has recovered from his knock. He could also rely on the fact that Fred was just having a bad day at the office and Sabitzer is growing into proceedings.

Donny van de Beek is out for the rest of the season so that option has gone, and Victor Lindelof ended up playing the final ten minutes in midfield. There are youth options in that area of the pitch available on the bench in the shape of Zidane Iqbal and Kobbie Mainoo, but starting either of them against Leeds on Sunday may be drastic.

Considering the number of chances United were still able to carve out against Leeds, especially in the first half, Ten Hag may decide to use Fred and Sabitzer again and hope the overall performance of the team improves in Yorkshire.

On this edition of TPL, Scott Saunders & Rob Blanchette discuss the Qatari interest in Manchester United, both fixtures versus Leeds United in the Premier League, Man City, Jadon Sancho & more! If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

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