Analysing Marcel Sabitzer’s start for Manchester United

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Marcel Sabitzer was signed by Manchester United during January to provide competition to their midfield. The main reason for the move was Christian Eriksen’s injury, as it left them short of options in the middle of the park. After a couple of months at Old Trafford, there is enough data to look at to analyse his performances. With Casemiro set to miss another three domestic matches, he is going to have a big part to play in the coming weeks.

The 29-year-old has played nine times for Manchester United, five of which have come as a starter. At the weekend, he scored his first goal in English football to put United in front in their cup tie against Fulham. It was an important goal that allowed Erik ten Hag’s men to put one foot inside Wembley. The driving run from midfield to get into the penalty area showed the attacking instincts in his game, although he was aided by Fulham only having nine men on the field of play.

During the game, he regularly got into advanced positions and had four shots on goal, more than any other player on his team. Only Aleksandar Mitrovic (5) had more attempts during the game. Sabitzer will be the midfielder that ten Hag wants to cover for Casemiro in his absence, but his attacking ability shows why he was brought in to replace Eriksen in the short term.

Out of possession, he is trying to show his ball-winning ability while he still adapts to English football. Sabitzer has averaged 2.9 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per ninety minutes. Although he isn’t anywhere near the level of Casemiro, he can handle himself out of possession. Meanwhile, his vast experience of the Bundesliga means he is an effective presser and has a great engine in the middle of the park.

Sabitzer has a pass accuracy of 81.8%, which shows that he can be trusted with the ball. This isn’t among the league leaders, but the Austrian will still be adapting to the quick pace of the Premier League. As he gains more experience, that percentage should increase. Within the Manchester United squad, only Scott McTominay has a higher pass completion (82.5%) out of the other central midfielder. With that context, Sabitzer’s ball retention is impressive and there is room for further improvement.

It is still early in Sabitzer’s Premier League career and it could only be a short stay for him in this country. There are no guarantees that United will choose to make the move permanent, as other long term targets may become available during the summer. However, he has had a solid start and is showing that he can be competitive across different aspects of his game.

The next three matches will be an opportunity for Sabitzer to convince Erik ten Hag that he could have a longer term future at Old Trafford. There is a chance for him to start and impress, like he did on Sunday. If a move isn’t in the offing, then there is still a window for him to impress. With his Bayern Munich career looking to be over, he will need a fresh start in the summer, whether that is with Manchester United or elsewhere.

Stats taken from whoscored and fbref (powered by opta

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