Manchester United are currently riding the crest of a wave following what has been a hugely pivotal last few days in their season, with Erik ten Hag’s side claiming Carabao Cup glory on Sunday evening after having dumped La Liga giants Barcelona out of the Europa League in midweek.
While the Red Devils are likely to still have their eyes set on competing for the true, top honours in the years to come, this recent success has laid bare the seachange that has occurred at the club following the Dutchman’s appointment, with it now looking like anything is possible amid hushed talk of a quadruple charge.
The hope will be that the Old Trafford outfit do not become complacent with a vital FA Cup meeting with West Ham United to come this evening, albeit with the hectic fixture schedule potentially set to lead to a change in personnel against David Moyes’ side, particularly ahead of Sunday’s trip to Anfield.
As such, one man who could be afforded a well-earned rest is usual everpresent, Bruno Fernandes, with the playmaking maestro perhaps one figure that Ten Hag will be keen to manage, despite the Portugal international’s desire to feature week-in, week-out.
With the 28-year-old having already started 37 games in all competitions this season, there will be fears of suffering burnout with still a few months of the campaign left to play, hence the need to take him out of the firing line where possible.
The only issue may be the lack of alternatives in that creative midfield berth – amid the loss of both Christian Eriksen and Donny van de Beek to injury – although one solution could be found in the form of promising youngster, Zidane Iqbal.
Will Iqbal play against West Ham?
Although Ten Hag has largely avoided the temptation to rotate during his time in Manchester thus far, tonight’s encounter at the Theatre of Dreams could be a rare occasion in which the 53-year-old alters his thinking, particularly after such a crucial week of fixtures.
As such, Iqbal could be one of the beneficiaries of those alterations, with the 19-year-old gem still awaiting a second appearance at senior level for the club, having made his first and only outing back in December 2021 under Ralf Rangnick.
That brief cameo appearance in the Champions League ᴅᴇᴀᴅ rubber against BSC Young Boys – which also saw fellow youngster Charlie Savage make his debut for the club – looked to be a sign of things to come for the Iraq international, although he has since been unable to ᴋɪᴄᴋ on in recent times.
Despite making his mark on last summer’s pre-season tour – having been described as “so impressive” by BBC Sports’ Simon Stone at the time – the teenager has remained on the fringes of the first team of late, sparking speculation that he could be eyeing a loan exit in January.
With no such move having occurred, Ten Hag must now ensure that the emerging gem is able to get some much-needed game time in the coming weeks and months, with Iqbal having clearly showcased his talent in the youth set-up, having been lauded as a player who has “heaps of technical quality, skill and intelligence” by Sky Sports reporter, Melissa Reddy.
The two-cap maestro has operated in a deeper role on occasion at youth level this season, although as a player who has previously admitted his admiration for ex-Arsenal man, Mesut Ozil, he can also operate in a more advanced berth, making him an ideal candidate to take Fernandes’ place in the side.
With the Manchester-born dynamo enduring a lengthy wait to add to his tally of appearances, tonight’s clash could be an opportune time for him to prove his worth.