Sheffield United have some big defensive issues ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Manchester United with five players potentially set to miss out.
Three of those certainly won’t be present for the Premier League clash at Old Trafford. Firstly, goalkeeper Dean Henderson is on loan from the Red Devils and isn’t eligible to play against his parent club.
Meanwhile, centre-back John Egan is suspended after being sent off during Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to Newcastle United. Finally, manager Chris Wilder confirmed to BBC Radio Sheffield that Panos Retsos has returned to Bayer Leverkusen.
Retsos was on loan from the Bundesliga club with the option to make that move permanent. That deal expired this month and the Blades have decided not to activate the clause, or look to extend the loan.
Which other players might not be available at Manchester United?
Jack O’Connell is yet to play since the return of top flight football in England due to injury. O’Connell collided with Henderson in training and there was some concern he might not feature again this season.
However, Wilder has offered a positive update – although it remains unlikely the defender will be fit for Wednesday.
“We’ll see (if he’ll be available),” the Blades boss said. “He’s not out for the season, which is good news. It’s just a matter of when the injury settles down. As soon as it settles down he’ll be back out there.”
Phil Jagielka is another doubt for the game at Man United having also picked up a knock in training. Jagielka was named among the substitutes at Newcastle, but was not brought on after Egan was shown a red card.
“Jags went over on his ankle in training. So we’re not having the greatest amount of luck with injuries,” Wilder continued.
“He really shouldn’t have been on the bench and that’s the reason why we didn’t put him on.”
What are the options?
All this leaves Wilder with some big problems at the back. Simon Moore will almost certainly replace Henderson in goal, just as he did the last time these two teams met.
Chris Basham and Jack Robinson should retain their places at the back. Yet who will join them is less clear. Egan is first choice in the centre of the three-man defence, with Jagielka the natural alternative when the Irishman is unavailable.
Unless the formation is changed, the other option would be to move either Basham or Robinson into the central position, In the former scenario, Jack Rodwell could come in on the right. In the latter, Enda Stevens could switch from wing-back to the centre and Ben Osborn then comes in on the flank.
However, none of these changes seem to offer the same defensive solidity that the Blades have relied on so much this term. Wilder has some tough decisions to make.