The international break can prove to be a problem for club teams, as it can serve to stall their momentum and there is a chance that players can return with injuries. Manchester United have been dealt an injury blow as Marouane Fellaini was taken off during Belgium’s World Cup qualifying win against Bosnia-Herzegovina with a knee injury. BBC Sport report that the midfielder is set to miss next weekend’s match against Liverpool and that will cause a selection headache for Jose Mourinho as Paul Pogba remains on the sidelines.
At one point in the club’s recent history, an injury to Fellaini wouldn’t have been seen as a blow, but he has proven himself to be a real weapon in Mourinho’s armoury since the Portuguese manager took over at Old Trafford. The 29-year-old can be very effective if deployed correctly and it is in the bigger matches that he is at his best.
Given Liverpool’s high-pressing game, it would have been a good option to start with Fellaini as the Belgian international can dominate in the air and a more direct style could be used. Although Manchester United wouldn’t resort to hoofball, they could have been quicker in their transitions and targeted a struggling Reds’ defence aerially.
The 29-year-old has been in great form too. He has already scored four goals this season, including a brace in the team’s last Premier League outing against Crystal Palace. There were rumours linking him with a move away from Old Trafford during the summer, but the club were determined to keep hold of him and his contribution already this season underlines why. It will be a disappointment for Mourinho that he won’t be able to call on the Belgian midfielder against Liverpool.
How can Manchester United replace him?
The club would have hoped to have Paul Pogba return for the match against their top-six rivals, but The Sun reported over the weekend that the Frenchman could be missing for another two months. Although that hasn’t been confirmed, it is clear that he won’t be ready to start against Liverpool. The beneficiary of the injury problems at the club is likely to be Ander Herrera.
Last season, the Spaniard emerged as one of the club’s most important players, but he has found first-team opportunities difficult to come by at the beginning of the new campaign. The midfielder has started only once in the Premier League and that came against the Stoke City, the only match that the Red Devils have failed to win this season.
It is too early to suggest why Herrera hasn’t been in the first-team, but the arrival of Nemanja Matic could have had a role to play. Mourinho may believe that the two players are too similar to work in the same midfield, which will be put to the test against Liverpool. United will need to dominate central areas and use possession intelligently against the Reds. If they can’t dominate the midfield areas, they will struggle to get a positive result.
Despite the disappointment of losing two midfield players, it is a display of the strength in depth that Manchester United have that they can call on Ander Herrera. The midfielder was excellent last season and emerged as one of the most consistent players in the Premier League. For one reason or another, it hasn’t clicked for him this season, but this is his chance. If he performs to the level that he can reach, he could earn himself a more prominent first-team role.