Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has praised a positive debut from on-loan midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, with the Austria international making his debut off the bench against Crystal Palace on Saturday only four days after arriving at Old Trafford.
United hadn’t initially planned to dip into the January market again following the loan arrivals of Jack Butland and Wout Weghorst. But injuries to Christian Eriksen and Scott McTominay on top of the existing absence of Donny van de Beek saw Ten Hag advise the club to consider options.
When a potential deal for Sabitzer was offered, they moved quickly and took it.
The 28-year-old, who made his name at RB Leipzig, began on the bench for the 2-1 win over Palace, with Ten Hag choosing to start with Casemiro and Fred in the centre of the pitch. But Sabitzer got on for the final nine minutes plus stoppage time, with Casemiro at that point already sent off.
“[Sabitzer] understands football,” Ten Hag later told MUTV.
“You see that straight from the start and in training as well. He did quite well, he's really composed on the ball and he knows how to defend.
“We need such players who understand the game and who also bring the right spirit.”
Casemiro’s straight red card for an altercation with Will Hughes, during which he puts his hands on the neck of the Palace midfielder – although slow motion replays did the Brazilian no favours and in real time it appeared far less aggressive – means a three-match ban.
His enforced absence further adds to United’s midfield woes, but it means that Sabitzer will likely play a bigger role straight off the bat than expected.
United have back-to-back Premier League fixtures against Leeds coming up in the next week, with the visit of Leicester to follow after that. Casemiro will be eligible for the Europa League knockout tie against Barcelona that falls in between upcoming domestic games this month.