Marcel Sabitzer’s brace for Austria against Azerbaijan on Friday was a timely nudge to club manager Erik ten Hag to give him a starting berth for Manchester United in their next match.
Sabitzer captained Austria and put in a man of the match performance, bagging two goals and providing an assist as his country ran out 4-1 victors on the night.
One of the goals was a stunning free kick from outside the box. He also created two big chances (source: sofascore.com).
The 26 year old is on loan at United from Bayern Munich but so far has largely been used as a backup, with Casemiro, Fred and Scott McTominay generally getting starts ahead of him in central midfield.
Christian Eriksen is also now approaching fitness after a bad ankle injury has seen him miss a big chunk of the season.
However, with Casemiro suspended again, positions are up for grabs and the impressive performance this weekend will have encouraged Ten Hag to promote Sabitzer to the starting lineup in the Brazilian’s absence.
The problem for Ten Hag is that only one of the four options – McTominay – is more of a direct replacement for the Brazilian in terms of being comfortable sitting in front of the defence to break up play and protect the back line.
Fred and Sabitzer are both box-to-box midfielders, while Eriksen’s focus is on distribution with his wide passing range.
However, if Ten Hag opts to simply select the two best footballers from the quartet, then arguably that could be the Dane and the Austrian.
If that is the case, Sabitzer will probably have to sit more than he would when playing his natural game, although Ten Hag could opt to tuck in the full backs to create more leeway for the loanee to venture forward and get himself in goalscoring positions as he did for his National side.
Sabitzer’s leadership skills were also on display in Linz and that is also a persuasive argument for starting him as the manager clearly favours strong and aggressive characters.
Austria, who are managed by former interim United boss Ralf Rangnick, are in action again tomorrow, facing Estonia in Linz.
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