Paul Pogba’s latest injury ahead of the visit to Burnley, as well as Scott McTominay’s absence being confirmed for the next couple of months, combined with the seeming reluctance to dip into the winter transfer market this month sees Manchester United’s midfield stripped to the bare bones.
The Red Devils have Nemanja Matić and Fred, who hasn’t missed a league minute since Arsenal’s visit to Old Trafford in September, at their disposal, along with the aforementioned duo of Pogba and McTominay – two players who would perhaps start if Ole Gunnar Solskjær had everyone at his disposal – United are missing youngsters James Garner and Dylan Levitt.
However, there is one forgotten man who could provide a useful option in a variety of positions, not least in central midfield, is Timothy Fosu-Mensah. Almost three years have passed since the Amsterdam-born utility man pulled on a red shirt, he did so in a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace, the game synonymous with academy graduates receiving the opportunity to feature in a Premier League match under José Mourinho.
Fosu-Mensah, who celebrated his 22nd birthday only six days ago, hasn’t featured in a match of any kind since he started in a 2-0 win over Marco Silva’s Everton side for his latest loan club, Fulham. Brought in from the wilderness by the then-interim boss, Scott Parker, the Dutchman looked as though he would end a disappointing season positively, certainly on a personal level, before he suffered an anterior crucial ligament injury which has kept him out until last month, when he returned to training.
If ever an injury was a blessing in disguise, it was this one. Fosu-Mensah entered the last year of his contract upon his return from Craven Cottage, however, injury prevented him from being loaned out or even sold and thus he stayed throughout the summer and thereby becoming United’s forgotten man.
The summer arrivals of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire added further competition at right-back and centre-back respectively, as well as fellow returnee Axel Tuanzebe from Aston Villa which perhaps left Fosu-Mensah surplus to requirements in those positions. However, one other component of this particular Swiss army knife is the youngster’s ability to play in midfield. It’s something he has done sparingly in his fledgeling career, and not on a regular basis since his under-23 days.
His attributes leave you assured he could fill-in that role, even just for the time being. His evident pace and fantastic strength would make him a good partner for Fred and Matić, while his passing does leave a little bit to be desired, his awareness of the game and ability to defend don’t go unnoticed.
Another positive for Fosu-Mensah is the seeming lack of defensive midfielders available on the market. Rumours around James Maddison, Jack Grealish and Bruno Fernandes are regular, if not accurate. However, none of them quite have the capacity to fill a void in the way United need, and Fosu-Mensah could provide.
We didn’t see him back in a red shirt on Monday night, with Neil Wood’s under-23 side visit to West Ham played without the presence of the Dutchman, however, it isn’t out of the question that he will feature alongside the youngsters before, and if, he makes his way into Solskjær’s plans.
A thin squad can’t afford to get much thinner, it could be February before we see Pogba or McTominay back on the field, with FA Cup commitments added to the Europa League and Premier League, as well as the League Cup, Fosu-Mensah could provide a useful option for Solskjær in the coming weeks.
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