PL Stories - South Korean starsNov 30
Erik ten Hag reveals whether Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Donny van de Beek and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will be back fit to face Everton
Maguire and Varane picked up injuries before and during the Manchester derby respectively, while Van de Beek has been recovering from a muscle problem sustained at the start of last month and Wan-Bissaka has missed the last three matches with an unspecified issue.
Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag says the decision whether or not to play Raphael Varane against Everton on Sunday evening will be "close" - but the Dutchman revealed that Harry Maguire, Donny van de Beek and Aaron Wan-Bissaka will not be available.
Van de Beek picked up a muscle injury at the start of September in the latest setback during his deeply frustrating time at Old Trafford, while Maguire missed both the Manchester derby and the Europa League trip to Omonia with a hamstring injury sustained in England's 3-3 draw with Germany.
Wan-Bissaka has not been in the last three matchday squads, and Varane came off during the 6-3 humbling at Manchester City with an ankle problem.
Ahead of the trip to Goodison Park - live on BT Sport 1 and BT Sport Ultimate from 7pm - Ten Hag was asked about the condition of the quartet.
He replied: "Difficult to say. Varane has made progress. I hope he's available, but I think it will be close.
"Regarding other players, Harry Maguire not, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Donny van de Beek, both not."
Van de Beek's situation is perhaps the most dismaying of the four.
The 25-year-old arrived at the club in the summer of 2020 from Ten Hag's Ajax to great fanfare, but he has started just four Premier League games since then, not finding a regular place in the side under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer or Ralf Rangnick.
Indeed, he started more league matches for Everton during his injury-disrupted loan spell there in the second half of last season (five) than he has during his entire time with the Red Devils. His three appearances this term have all come from the bench.
When asked specifically about Van de Beek's prognosis for his current injury, Ten Hag responded: "He had a muscle injury. It takes a couple of weeks, but he’s now back in training. He’s outside doing individual work. He’s not returned to team training, so we have to wait for that moment."
Ten Hag still has faith in his compatriot to turn things around, but stressed his need to get back fit: "He had a pre-season that was quite OK and these changes [improvements] will come.
"When he came on against Brighton, he did very well, but you have to be available. When you're not available, you cannot get a place in the first XI, so now he has to make sure that he gets fit and then fight for his position."
Ten Hag was also unable to consign last week's Manchester derby entirely to history as he was asked what the missing ingredients were that are preventing his side from competing with their neighbours.
"It's physical, it's mental," said the 52-year-old. "It's also [about] sustainability. It's like a routine, a way of life.
"You have to bring it every training [session] in your system as a squad or as individual players. When you have a lack of it in the last [few] years, it's not something you build in a week or a month. No, it has to be in your system. It has to be, but it's a demand in top football nowadays, and I think it's quite clear City is the standard in that – and there are more teams – but also we can deliver that.
"We have seen it against Liverpool, we have seen it against Arsenal, but now we have to do it on a consistent basis and that is what we have to work [at] for now, but it will not come overnight. It will take more than weeks – it will take months."
While catching City this season is unrealistic, a top-four finish is not, with United two points off surprise package Brighton.
That quest to return to the Champions League - along with trying to win the Europa League - continues in earnest on Merseyside.