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Man United: Zidane Iqbal can fill Van de Beek void

Everything appears to be going right for Manchester United at present amid their rampant run of post-World Cup form, although one point of concern for Erik ten Hag will be the injury absence of compatriot Donny van de Beek, with the Netherlands international having been forced off in the win over Bournemouth at the start of the month.

The United manager has subsequently revealed that the playmaker will be out of action for the remainder of the season due to that knee issue, yet another setback in what has been an underwhelming two-and-a-half-year stay at Old Trafford for the 25-year-old.

Although the former Ajax gem will not leave too great of a hole in the team having only started twice in the Premier League this season, it will still come as a blow to be without him as an attacking midfield option, particularly with little depth beyond Bruno Fernandes in that role.

Should Ten Hag need to rotate the Portugal maestro amid what will be a hectic schedule over the coming months in league and cup competitions, there are few standout candidates to take his place in the team, with the likes of Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard having departed over the summer.

One possible solution to help fill the void left by Van de Beek’s injury could well be that of 19-year-old sensation Zidane Iqbal, with the Iraq international still waiting for his chance to feature in a competitive match this season for the Old Trafford outfit.

Despite making his senior bow alongside friend and youth colleague Charlie Savage against Young Boys in December 2021, the teenager has yet to build upon that debut, despite being named in several matchday squads this season.

That has led to talk that the 19-year-old could leave on loan this month, although it could be wise to reconsider amid Van de Beek’s injury blow, particularly with Iqbal having shown flashes of his undoubted potential in recent times.

The 5 foot 11 ace had impressed during the club’s pre-season tour last summer, having especially caught the eye in the 4-0 thrashing over Liverpool in Bangkok, at one stage producing a delightful turn to evade Fabinho in the middle of the park.

The two-cap starlet was then lauded for his display in the subsequent friendly triumph over Melbourne Victory, with Sky Sports reporter Melissa Reddy having stated of his talents: “Zidane Iqbal has heaps of technical quality, skill and intelligence – importantly with the personality to match it. He demands the ball, moves, scans, never hides and is not scared of making a mistake in trying to execute what he feels is the right decision.”

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While not in the pressurised environment of the Premier League, those outings during the pre-season tour showcased that Iqbal is unlikely to be overawed if he is thrust into the fray any time soon, having shown remarkable maturity and confidence when in possession.

Having just captained the club’s U21 side to victory over the Anfield outfit, it would appear that the sparkling asset – who is said to idolise former Arsenal star Mesut Ozil – is now in need of regular first-team football, be it away from the Theatre of Dreams or as part of Ten Hag’s squad.

The hope would be that Iqbal can take the latter route and use Van de Beek’s absence as a way to truly establish himself in the senior ranks at United.