Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has recently expressed concern over a lack of midfield depth, with a number of injury and suspension concerns leaving the department looking fairly weak.
The recovery of Scott McTominay from his muscle problem has helped, and both Casemiro and Marcel Sabitzer have now served their respective domestic and European bans, but the Red Devils will still be missing Donny van de Beek and Christian Eriksen for an extended spell.
The loss of the latter man, in particular, has been a significant setback for the Old Trafford outfit, with the Danish international looking to be out until the end of the season after suffering an ankle injury in the FA Cup last month as a result of a tough charge from Reading’s Andy Carroll.
The 31-year-old has been a near-constant presence since joining on a free transfer in the summer, having scored twice and contributed nine assists in 31 games across all competitions this season, with 27 of those appearances coming from the start.
The loss of the seasoned playmaker has left a creative hole in Ten Hag’s side, with recent addition Sabitzer yet to properly demonstrate his offensive potential, having failed to deliver a goal or an assist in his four appearances in all competitions so far.
If the former Ajax manager is seeking a better fit to help replace the void left by Eriksen between now and the conclusion of the season, the 53-year-old may be prudent to look to the club’s academy levels.
Who can take Eriksen’s spot at Manchester United?
While Kobbie Mainoo has already seen some first-team experience in recent weeks, the 17-year-old might be joined in the senior squad by fellow teenager Dan Gore, who is also doing well at the academy level.
The 18-year-old Englishman, who has scored twice and contributed one assist in 18 games across all competitions this season, resembles the aforementioned Eriksen in his ability to operate in an advanced playmaking spot or in a central midfield role.
The former Burnley player, who has four goals and five assists for the Red Devils’ U18 site to date, was a key member of the FA Youth Cup-winning side last season alongside the likes of Mainoo and Alejandro Garnacho, and now hopes to follow in the footsteps of his youth teammates and make the step up to the first team.
Gore was lauded as “one of the most brilliant teenagers” in the club’s academy by talent scout Jacek Kulig last season, and he also received high acclaim from youth coach Colin Little, who stated:
As Little mentioned above, Gore can provide a ‘combative’ presence in the center of the park in addition to his more forward-thinking qualities, having demonstrated that he is not afraid to leave his mark by reportedly producing a crunching, training ground challenge on Anthony Martial, eliciting a furious reaction from the Frenchman.
The extra bite, along with the teen’s creative flare, should allow him to quickly acclimate to life in the first team, with the expectation that Ten Hag will call on him soon.