It was less than 24 hours after Christian Eriksen was confirmed to be out for three months before Manchester United snapped up his replacement. An ankle injury for the Dane sustained in the FA Cup against Reading led to the Red Devils’ quick pursuit of Bayern Munich’s Marcel Sabitzer, with the club confirming a loan deal shortly after yesterday’s deadline.
Fans became very concerned when Eriksen was left sidelined, with Donny van de Beek also out injured for the rest of the season. However, United were quick to act and Sabitzer is looking like a very good alternative to the former Tottenham Hotspur man. With 18 matches of the Premier League season left, the Red Devils need Sabitzer to slot straight into the midfield and get back to his best if they are to continue their brilliant form.
Despite spending a lot of the campaign in a deeper role than he did during his time with Spurs and Brentford, Eriksen has the second-most assists in the top flight (7) and Sabitzer will be expected to keep up the goal contributions. Despite his struggles with Bayern Munich, the Austrian has proven his ability in front of goal, netting 79 goals and providing 63 assists across his seven year stint with RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg.
In fact, Sabitzer’s time with Leipzig showed exactly how much quality he has and certainly made a huge impression on Julian Nagelsmann as he was desperate to bring the midfielder to the Allianz Arena with him and his €16m switch came four months after the Bayern boss’ appointment. Sabitzer struggled to have a similar impact with the German giants and was unfortunate enough to be up against some of the world’s best midfielders in the likes of Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Jamal Musiala.
Arguably one of Sabitzer’s most important qualities that he will bring to the United team is his versatility. While the 28-year-old has been brought in to fill Eriksen’s void, he will be able to help United all over the pitch. The loanee initially began his career as a winger in Vienna before he adopted a role behind the strikers in a 4-2-2-2 system under Ralf Rangnick. He was then pushed into a more central position and his most success came as a number six, where he helped them reach the Champions League semi-final in 2020.
However, one weakness of Sabitzer’s to this United team is that, while he is versatile, his ability from Eriksen’s position doesn’t quite match that of the Dane’s. Instead, he might have more in common with the injured Van de Beek, with Eriksen much better at reading the field and exposing defensive weaknesses of the opposition.
Sabitzer’s best form has also come when he is used as the anchor of the midfield where he is dictating possession - much like his time with Leipzig and the Austria national team. With Casemiro taking up that role under Erik ten Hag, Sabitzer will have to adapt to a different role in the Red Devils’ evolving side. However, with the 28-year-old only spending the next six months in England, he will have to move quick if he can make the desired impact during his short loan spell.