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Why Erik ten Hag should play Manchester United's Zidane Iqbal against Brentford in the Premier League

Yusuf Haq

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Why Erik ten Hag should play Manchester United's Zidane Iqbal against Brentford in the Premier League

Manchester United’s 2022/23 season is underway, albeit not to the strong start that many fans had desired.

Despite the home advantage, Manchester United fell to a 2-1 defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion in their opening Premier League fixture in what was an uninspiring performance.

The worst of these performances came from the two men in the middle, and United’s already desperate need for a midfielder has now been further enhanced.

Whether or not Frenkie de Jong will join the club is still up in the air, yet yesterday’s game showed just why Erik ten Hag is so set on signing the player.

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Although at this stage, almost any player would make an impact in United’s midfield. It is unlikely the club will sign De Jong, or any other quality midfielder, before Saturday’s trip to Brentford.

But United do possess a player within their ranks who based on his pre-season performances is deserving of a chance in the first team.

Teenager Zidane Iqbal was one of the best performers in the entire squad on the Red Devils’ tour of the Far East this summer, and earned a spot in United’s 2022/23 first team squad as a reward for it.

Now that he is in the squad Erik ten Hag needs to use him, and on the back of Sunday’s midfield horror show that should begin with the next fixture.

Arguably both Fred and Scott McTominay need to be dropped from the starting XI after Brighton, but realistically one of them is needed.

Zidane Iqbal against Aston Villa in pre-season. (Man Utd)
Zidane Iqbal against Aston Villa in pre-season. (Man Utd)

On quality, tactical fit and meritocracy it should be Fred to start. He was slightly less awful in United’s opening fixture, had a very strong pre-season and has been settling into a new role for Ten Hag.

If he does join, the role Fred is currently occupying would become De Jong’s role in the side and that issue could be sorted, with the Brazilian also capable of partnering the Dutchman.

McTominay was by a long way the worst player on the pitch against Brighton and such a performance means he does not deserve to start in West London on Saturday.

Christian Eriksen is also capable of performing deeper and could be an option, although with Bruno Fernandes also performing poorly on Sunday there is an argument for the Dane to start over him in the No.10.

United’s midfield may be shallow, but he isn’t the club’s only option in his position. Iqbal performed excellently there in pre-season, and keeping McTominay in the side sends the wrong message out.

Christian Eriksen against Brighton. (Man Utd)
Christian Eriksen against Brighton. (Man Utd)

If Erik ten Hag wants to create a winning culture at Old Trafford, then players must understand that there are consequences when they perform poorly and that their places are never safe.

Players must also feel that their good performances are to be rewarded with further minutes and chances to make the role they play theirs to lose.

After Sunday, McTominay (amongst many others) fall into the former category whilst off the back of pre-season, Iqbal falls into the latter category.

Starting him against Brentford might not be the answer to United’s midfield problem from yesterday, but it is something the teenager deserves.

At the same time, being dropped should also elicit a positive reaction from the Scotsman to come back and fight for his spot in the team.

United need to bounce back from their opening day loss, and decisions like this are ones that will move the team forward in the long term. 

Featured Image Credit: Manchester United

Topics: Manchester United, Erik Ten Hag, Scott Mctominay, Fred, Christian Eriksen

Yusuf Haq
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