An FA Cup replay with Wolves was never going to be an easy proposition. Especially as the competition offers Manchester United their most realistic chance of silverware this season. For that reason, you can understand why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named such a strong line up.
However, he and just about everyone else will now know that hindsight is a wonderful thing. With Marcus Rashford limping off due to injury, it means that another step on the ‘Road To Wembley’ was one that came at a huge cost.
It is a cost that saw the England international ruled out of United’s clash with Liverpool last Sunday. With the paucity of attacking options that the Red Devils have available, Rashford’s absence was undoubtedly going to be a major blow.
Fast forward to the second half of that Anfield encounter. Sky’s Martin Tyler broke the news that no United fan wanted to hear, the 22-year-old was now set to miss the next three months after suffering a double stress fracture of his back.
That was news which came from respected journalist Henry Winter on Twitter. Although the initial diagnosis was perhaps overstated, it does seem that United are now bracing themselves for two months without their star forward.
In a season when the club’s hierarchy have failed to replace Romelu Lukaku, this is the one piece of news that manager Solskjaer could have done without. With only two other recognised attackers to call upon, United’s hopes of a top four finish have taken a serious dent.
The question that will be put to the United board, is whether they deem it necessary to go out and buy some additional firepower. An addition to support Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood who have scored just 12 league goals between them this season.
In a sense, the heavily criticised Ed Woodward is in an impossible position. If he doesn’t help sign a new striker before the end of the month, his rather fraught relationship with the fans will fracture even further.
On the other hand he won’t want Manchester United to be perceived as a club that are looking to panic buy. If they do portray that image, the cost of any potential new signing will suddenly increase.
At the same time, United know that they cannot afford to dig their heels either and for two primary reasons. Firstly, there is now less than two weeks before the January transfer window shuts and, secondly, another season outside the Champions League will damage the balance sheet.
Therefore, it may need something of a calculated gamble. Bringing in an another attacker could also aid them in their quest to win this season’s Europa League. If they achieve that, a return to Europe’s premier competition opens up through the backdoor.
Of course, if the club decide that the pairing of Martial and Greenwood is enough for the next two months, a decision that could increase the fans’ current ire, then Ole Gunnar Solskjaer cannot be absolved of all the blame either.
Ultimately, the Norwegian was the man who made the ill-judged decision to play Rashford against Wolves and now the consequences are being felt. However, you could argue that the former United legend was placed into an impossible position of his own. One that goes back to the decision not to replace Belgian international Romelu Lukaku after his departure to Inter Milan last summer. Therefore, the selection of United’s number 10 was made more out of necessity than choice.
Had someone else joined the Old Trafford fold back in August, they might not have needed a replay to progress to the Fourth Round of the FA Cup and Rashford would be fit and raring to go for their tie against either Watford or Tranmere.
Of course, these are the kind of sliding doors moments that define seasons and you only need to look at their Premier League counterparts Tottenham, to see just how badly an injury can seriously derail you.
Spurs are now set to be without Harry Kane for the rest of the season, and their own hopes of a top four finish seem to be evaporating by the week. Judging by how it has all gone wrong for the North Londoners, the twenty time English league champions have a choice to make.
Do they limp towards the end of the season and risk further extending their Champions League exile? Or do they roll the dice and open the chequebook, in order to salvage their own stuttering campaign? I guess we will know the answer at the start of February.
We’ve been nominated for an award for our Conscious Colossus scheme! Want to know what Conscious Colossus is? Read all about it here.