An injury to Marcel Sabitzer has ruled him out of Manchester United’s plans till the end of the season. And just like that, a loan that was termed as a smart signing, with the potential to be so much more, is destined to end with a whimper.
Sabitzer’s injury record should ring warning bells for Erik ten Hag and co. Phil Jones will be leaving the club this summer. Paul Pogba’s predicament since leaving United is not a secret. Splashing the cash on an injury-prone Sabitzer, who’s a rotational option at best, when there are other glaring holes in the squad means Sabitzer’s stay at United should end with this loan.
Marcel Sabitzer’s injury record
It might surprise United fans to know that Sabitzer hasn’t actually been very injury-prone throughout his career. As per Transfermarkt, his only major issue in his career before the current knee injury was a 95-day layoff due to a shoulder issue. It came while he was playing for RB Leipzig and due to it being close to the end of season, he didn’t miss many games.
However, it has been a different story at Old Trafford.
By the end of the season, Sabitzer will be on course to be unavailable for more games for United than he was for Bayern Munich in his two-year stay there.
Part of it can be attributed to the sudden increase in workload for the Austrian. Before leaving the Bavarians, Sabitzer barely got a look in at Munich. He had played just 624 minutes in the Bundesliga, a figure he has already surpassed for United (627 minutes in the league).
It is clear to see that Sabitzer, despite lacking match fitness, was thrown in at the deep end during the club’s most intense stretch of the season. While he managed to stay afloat for a while, a sharp and immediate match-load was always going to end badly. And so it has. Question is, should United consider this context and still sign him permanently? Not when looking at it from a holistic point of view.
Why Manchester United shouldn’t sign Marcel Sabitzer permanently
Injury record aside, Sabitzer just hasn’t impressed enough during his minutes at the club. At his best, he is an advanced midfielder who makes line-breaking runs beyond the last man and provides goals from midfield.
The problem at United is that Scott McTominay is a similar profile of player, while Fred does a little bit of everything (although not amazing at anything). Sabitzer was brought in as an emergency injury replacement for Christian Eriksen. That said, his style of play is the polar opposite of the Dane.
A big reason why United have lost so many away games this season is their lack of a ball carrier in midfield. Someone who can take the ball from the defence and dribble through the opposition press is a key player in Ten Hag’s teams. It is why Frenkie de Jong was obsessively chased last summer.
Sabitzer has shown with his play this season that he is not that player. He is, in simple terms, a more physically imposing version of Fred. United’s worst performances since January have come when they have been paired together as a defensive pivot. That kind of player is the last profile Ten Hag needs.
Furthermore, with his Bayern Munich contract set to expire in 2025, there will certainly be a transfer fee involved in his potential signing. United’s struggles with Financial Fair Play the coming window due to years of mismanagement under Glazers is no secret. Neither is the fact that the position the club needs to fill urgently is that of a striker.
Therefore, it is no surprise to see the club linked with Adrien Rabiot on a free transfer. Rabiot brings better ball-progression that Sabitzer while improving upon his goalscoring attributes. Most importantly, the lack of a transfer fee, for a better fit to the squad is a no-brainer signing.
The only way for Sabitzer to remain at Manchester United should be if the club manages to fetch a decent return for either McTominay and Fred. That way, the Austrian will slide into their role of being the “Energiser Bunny” off the bench. However, such is the inflation in the striker’s market currently, Ten Hag might think it is better yet to reinvest those sales to increase the money available for a clinical forward.
In conclusion, Sabitzer hasn’t been a bad signing. He came in during an injury crisis and gave his best during a hectic run of fixtures. However, it has been a perfect storm of bad events- Injury luck, financial concerns, glaring holes elsewhere in the squad, which will ultimately squeeze him out of a permanent place at the club next season.