The Peoples Person
·3 February 2023
The Peoples Person
·3 February 2023
Manchester United are still fighting on all four fronts with a trip to Wembley confirmed in the Carabao Cup. It will be the first domestic Cup final since the 2016-17 season.
As Erik ten Hag celebrates along with his team, one player who will be watching from the sidelines is midfield magician Christian Eriksen, who had to be taken off during United’s FA Cup victory over Reading after a horrible tackle from Andy Carroll.
With the news of the Dane’s prognosis arriving on deadline day, the Dutchman asked the club to bring in a replacement considering the punishing schedule coming up where the Red Devils play almost every three days.
With Donny van de Beek also out for the season and Scott McTominay not available for a few weeks, the 20-time English league champions needed the right fit.
Intermediaries jumped at the prospect of taking their client to Old Trafford but Ten Hag was adamant he would not take someone just because of their name or because of the business prospects.
And that opportunity presented itself in the form of Bayern Munich star Marcel Sabitzer, who was spotted watching his new teammates in action on Wednesday.
A few pundits did raise the question as to why the Dutch coach preferred to bring in the Austrian considering he has not been a sure-shot starter at the Bavarian giants since his move last summer.
But Ten Hag knew what he wanted and had seen enough from the 28-year-old to know that he would be the perfect short-term solution.
Due to his difficulties in Munich, it is easy to forget what a player Sabitzer was at RB Leipzig. From brilliant passing range to ability to shoot from distance and energy to match, the Austria international seemed to have it all.
To top it off, Julian Nagelsmann and former United manager Ralf Rangnick were huge fans of his work-rate and ability to play all across the midfield and Ten Hag is aware of what sort of player he has decided to bring to The Theatre of Dreams.
Ten Hag, was once coach at Bayern Munich II and he knows a thing or two about players from the Bundesliga and Sabitzer is one who had impressed the former Ajax coach.
“I know the player already a long time from [RB] Salzburg,” he continued in his post-match press conference. “Especially from [RB] Leipzig. He performed fantastically, so I expect that he will do the same here.
“I think he has a great attitude; he is at the right age, and I am sure this opportunity will motivate him greatly and he will perform strongly for us.”
🗣 "Really happy with that transfer. We need it." Erik ten Hag is delighted with getting the Marcel Sabitzer transfer over the line
United fans will not have fond memories of Sabitzer after the Austria international masterminded Leipzig’s 3-2 triumph over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side which knocked the Red Devils out of the Champions League two seasons ago.
Sabitzer had grown increasingly frustrated at his reduced game-time since Nagelsmann brought him to the Allianz Arena in 2021. He had started just eight Bundesliga games and one Champions League match for Bayern last season.
And things have not improved this term either with his last competitive start coming for his national team instead of the Bavarian giants.
In fact, since resumption of domestic football in Germany, Sabitzer has been on the field for just five minutes amid intense competition from the likes of Joshua Kimmich, Ryan Gravenberch, Thomas Muller and Jamal Musiala.
And that is exactly why Sabitzer will be eager to prove that he deserved more minutes and show to people why he was considered as one of Bundesliga’s hottest properties a couple of seasons ago.
His agent and Rangnick have previously commented on his hatred for losing and how he is always fired up and that can only be a positive for Ten Hag if honed properly.
On careful viewing, the Bayern midfielder offers an upgrade on Eriksen is some aspects even if their skillsets are slightly different. The key qualities Sabitzer possesses is his energy, passing-range and a very good long-range shooting ability.
Back at Leipzig, Sabitzer was very much a goal threat unlike Eriksen, who prefers to let his assists do the talking. Not to mention his superior defensive ability as compared to the Dane which should keep United’s back line should well shielded.
As per stats, the Austria international wins 3.06 tackles per 90, compared to Eriksen’s paltry 0.89 per game. In this statistic, Sabitzer ranks in the 92 percentile of midfielders in Europe. He also wins 1.84 tackles a game to Eriksen’s 0.54.
The same trend is true for other defensive metrics such as dribblers tackled, dribbles contested and clearances made. Sabitzer is also statistically better than Eriksen in intercepting. The Austria international averages 1.23 interceptions per 90, to Eriksen’s 0.6.
Not to mention the famous ‘Sabitzer howitzer’ which had become a common sight at Leipzig, with the midfielder unafraid to strike the ball from 30 yards or more.
The only thing remaining is for the player to adjust to the intensity of the Premier League and shake off any rustiness he might be carrying due to a lack of competitive minutes in the last couple of months.
But if he does play to potential, Ten Hag and United could just have made the most under-rated signing of the window among the top English clubs.
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