Five potential solutions to Man Utd midfield issue with Casemiro suspended vs Leeds

With the Manchester United star unable to play at Old Trafford on Wednesday, we look at how Erik ten Hag could line up.

Erik ten Hag has a midfield dilemma for Manchester United’s Premier League game against Leeds United on Wednesday.

The Red Devils are set to be without Casemiro following his red card in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace. The former Real Madrid man was sent off for grabbing Will Hughes by the throat, an act Ten Hag described as ‘crossing the line’ while he also bemoaned the refereeing ‘inconsistencies’ his side have faced in recent weeks.

But it leaves United with a real problem for Wednesday due to a lack of midfielders. Donny van de Beek has been ruled out for the remainder of the season, Christian Eriksen’s ankle injury means he won’t play until April or May, while Scott McTominay is out for a few weeks with a knock. Therefore, United have just three fit senior midfield options.

We’ve taken a look at how Ten Hag could set up for Wednesday’s clash against Leeds and potentially for the upcoming trip to Elland Road this weekend.

Play strongest midfielders

Perhaps the most obvious solution is to just play Fred, Bruno Fernandes and Marcel Sabitzer in the centre - the only fit and available midfielders Ten Hag has in his ranks.

But this approach also comes with concerns. Fred lacks the defensive discipline to shield a back four, Fernandes may have to drop into an unnatural deeper role and Sabitzer would be forced to start in a grudge match having struggled for game-time in recent weeks.

Turn to youth

United could hand minutes to some fringe members of the squad in Kobbie Mainoo and Zidane Iqbal. The latter is most suited to a role in front of the back four, yet he evidently isn’t deemed ready for first-team football yet and hasn’t played a competitive minute all season for the Red Devils.

Mainoo, on the other hand, has featured twice this campaign in the cup competitions. Yet the 17-year-old prefers to operate in a more progressive midfield role, with United’s problems more focused in the no.6 position.

In the unlikely event that either are selected to start, coming in to face Leeds would be a huge responsibility for a youngster who has yet to play in the Premier League.

Kobbie Mainoo has played in midfield already this season. Credit: Getty.
Kobbie Mainoo has played in midfield already this season. Credit: Getty.
Kobbie Mainoo has played in midfield already this season. Credit: Getty.

Change formation

Switching from a midfield three to a two-man partnership would alleviate the worry of shoehorning players into unnatural roles, or relying on youth-team players. Should he opt to change shape, Ten Hag could operate with a 4-4-2 formation and play Marcus Rashford and Wout Weghorst up top, with Fred and Fernandes in midfield.

Yet, the United boss has selected three in the centre of the park every game this season and won’t want to move away from that, especially given the limited time on the training ground to perfect the system.

Push defender higher

Ten Hag has highlighted how two of his centre-backs have experience playing in midfield, and the Dutchman may call upon that wealth of knowledge.

Victor Lindelof has already had a brief cameo in a more advanced position, while Ten Hag recently explained that Lisandro Martinez has played in central midfield before. “He did it before so that is also one thing as a manager, you have to be creative in such situations.

Martinez may offer an unorthodox option in midfield. Credit: Getty.
Martinez may offer an unorthodox option in midfield. Credit: Getty.
Martinez may offer an unorthodox option in midfield. Credit: Getty.

“Where in other departments you have players who can be starting XI players but because I can only play one player in that position, we can move players into different departments.”

With a plethora of centre-back options, deploying a defender in midfield is a possibility, albeit they’re unlikely to be a natural fit alongside Fred and Fernandes,

Redeploy Rashford

Rashford has already played in a no.10 role on a few occasions this season, most notably after coming off the bench in the Europa League win over Sheriff Tiraspol in October.

Again, it’s not an ideal solution, especially if it means Fernandes playing deeper, but Rashford’s penetrative runs from midfield could cause Leeds problems. It’s also not too dissimilar from the 4-4-2 shape previously mentioned, yet it may offer a bit more protection through the middle.