Manchester United produced a seven-goal thriller against Wolverhampton Wanderers on their return to Premier League action on Thursday.
United started brightly, racing into a two-goal lead with the return of stars like Lisandro Martinez, Casemiro and Luke Shaw vital to the improved attacking display.
However, the Brazilian looked leggy and conceded a dubious penalty before eventually being subbed off while Lisandro Martinez was seen icing his foot after getting withdrawn.
EtH on Case-Licha
Considering both their long injury layoffs, there was concern that both might not make it for the game against West Ham United on Sunday.
Speaking during the pre-match press conference, Erik ten Hag allayed those fears but reminded fans that both are far from their best and will need time to regain the rhythm they showed last season.
“It was a precaution,” admitted the boss. “We needed an extra header, but for Licha, he has just had a long time out and we brought Harry Maguire on.
“He has to catch up as well and with Case, I know the more games he plays, the better he will be. He needs some game minutes, that is what he takes the most benefit from.
“In that moment with another foul, he would have been sent off, so we cannot take that risk.”
Towards the end of the game, the manager’s strange substitutions were heavily criticised as he brought off all his forwards and replaced them with centre-backs Maguire and Jonny Evans.
Young Omari Forson came on for goalscorer Rasmus Hojlund and the youngster justifiably struggled with the manager’s options limited in an attacking capacity with Anthony Martial sidelined for three months.
EtH crying out for a No 9
“I think it is no secret that we wanted a striker. With the injury to Anthony Martial, we really needed a back-up there. But it was not possible and we had to watch the FFP rules.
“We have Omari, we have Amad Diallo and also also have Marcus Rashford, who can play there, but I think for the rest of the positions, all of them are well occupied. We have to be a little bit creative when it comes to the number nine position.”
Sofyan Amrabat is back from the Africa Cup of Nations while Aaron Wan-Bissaka has not played for some time.
The Dutchman was asked about the availability of the duo along with the conditions of Victor Lindelof, Mason Mount and Tyrell Malacia, with the trio sidelined for a long time now.
Ten Hag said it is unlikely that the injured trio will be back but the Swede is close to regaining full fitness.
“Wan-Bissaka is also on his way back and he could be available for Sunday but I don’t think he will make it for Sunday. I am not sure in this moment. There is a problem in his leg.”
“Sofyan will return on Saturday and in the training, yes. Ty [Malacia] and Mason Mount, I don’t expect them back. But Victor Lindelof is on his way back and, yesterday, he trained with team, we have to see how far he is.”
United can leapfrog the Hammers, who drew against Bournemouth in their midweek clash, into sixth place with a win and can also take revenge for their 0-2 defeat a few months earlier in the season.
With a stronger squad to choose from and with Old Trafford cheering them on, United are expected to keep up their winning run.