Manager Erik ten Hag says Man Utd are close to sealing a deal to sign Wout Weghorst on loan – but that he will not join the club in time for Saturday’s Manchester derby.
There were hopes that United would have the Netherlands striker ready to face Man City at Old Trafford in the lunchtime kick-off, but Ten Hag confirmed ahead of the game that Weghorst had not been registered by the Friday midday deadline.
“I think we are closed,” Ten Hag told reporters when asked about the Dutchman. “But he wouldn’t be available for tomorrow. Hopefully, it will be soon, he will be there.”
United may be buoyed by Anthony Martial’s inclusion should the striker recover from a leg complaint in time for the match, but otherwise will again be limited on forward options with Burnley striker Weghorst’s move still incomplete.
One player who will definitely be missing is Donny van de Beek, who Ten Hag confirmed has been ruled out for the rest of the campaign by injury.
“On the long term, it is looking really good, he will be back for the start of pre-season,” Ten Hag said. “The rest of the season he is out.
“I think everyone’s thoughts are with him. It is terrible when you are in a season and you get a bad tackle, a bad injury. It is always really disappointing and thoughts, feelings are with the player. You express that, our group did that really well, and we are now happy his knee in the long term is good.”
Ten Hag: Casemiro is among the world’s best
The Manchester United manager was also asked about the impact £60m summer signing Casemiro has had at Old Trafford since his move.
Since the return of domestic football last month, United have conceded just one goal in six games in part thanks to the Brazilian’s domination in midfield, and he again showed his attacking side with a goal of his own in the 3-0 win over Bournemouth on January 3.
Ten Hag was glowing in his admiration for the 30-year-old, who has already made himself an invaluable part of United’s midfield.
“He is so important,” the manager said. “He’s the cement between the stones. His defending, his organisation, anticipating, supporting players in the right position, winning balls for the team and duels.
“But also in possession, he can speed up the game. He has that ability to give to a top team.
“There’s not many who have this quality in the world, he’s one of them so we are really happy to have him – he makes a huge difference.”
‘This period is about positioning for winning trophies’
Victory in the Manchester derby would move United a point behind City, almost completely closing the gap which has ballooned over recent years, and by the end of last season stood at 35 points.
Ten Hag rejected any significance of the opportunity for his side to move within touching distance of their rivals, and focused instead on United’s positioning in the table ahead of a relentless run-in during the second half of the season.
“The season isn’t even halfway through. It’s the second time we face Man City, but there’s a long way to go,” he said.
“This period of the season is about getting yourself in a position where you can win trophies at the end of the season, so you go game-to-game, and don’t look too far ahead.
“We have to prove [our improvement] tomorrow on the pitch, that’s the only proof. Last time it didn’t go well, so we have to do better tomorrow.
“It’s not come overnight, there was a process. In the last months, where we’ve developed and progressed. We have now faced better teams, we’re looking forward to it. One of the things is about the mental approach and attitude .
“We have to act with belief and play our game.”