Manchester United have suffered a huge setback with Marcus Rashford ruled out for at least the next few games and Erik ten Hag unsure when his striker will return.
Rashford, who has scored 28 goals this season, was substituted on Saturday in the 81st minute of United’s 2-0 win against Everton with a groin injury.
United have ruled Rashford out of both legs of their Europa League quarter-final against Sevilla next week and Sunday’s trip to Nottingham Forest.
But Ten Hag could not say whether his top scorer would return for the FA Cup semi-final against Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday week and admitted United would need to see how the injury develops. United have six more games to play this month, starting with Sevilla’s visit to Old Trafford on Thursday night.
“Some matches, that’s the statement [released by the club]’said Ten Hag when asked how long he expected Rashford to be missing. ‘I can’t give more details as we don’t know. We have to see how the injury develops.
“Obviously it’s a setback and he’s disappointed by it, but he’s not totally devastated because he knows he’ll be back quickly, so he’s optimistic and he’s started his recovery and rehabilitation right away, so that helps him come back soon.”
In a statement on their website, United said Rashford would be “unavailable for some games but is expected to return for the season-break-in” and added that there would be “relief at the prospect of him returning for an important game in the last weeks of the season”.
Winger Alejandro Garnacho and defender Luke Shaw were also sidelined, although Ten Hag said they expected Shaw’s return “at short notice”.
Rashford’s absence will put further pressure on Anthony Martial to regain fitness during the run-in given his overwhelming reliance on the England striker for goals this season.
The France forward has endured an injury-plagued season but hasn’t played since the 2-1 win over Manchester City on 14 January, when he was forced off at half-time.
Martial has come on as a substitute in United’s last three games, against Newcastle, Brentford and Everton, and Ten Hag are hopeful he can make a big impact for the rest of the season.
“I think he’s ready to start a game but the front row against Brentford did really well and we decide to continue against Everton and they did very well again,” said the United manager. “The advantage is that we can bring Anthony Martial back slowly, give him minutes, get him used to high intensity but against Everton he was ready to go again.
“We mustn’t force things [with Martial with Rashford out] but let’s be careful of course.
“You say I defended him [Martial] but I only indicate the statistics. Statistics tell you that when he’s on the pitch the time he needs for a goal is really less and when he’s in the team, I’m referring to the matches against Manchester City and Liverpool, we play our best football and get our best results as a group. I’ve just pointed to the stats and see how he’s contributed to the team.”
Meanwhile, David de Gea has remained tight-lipped about his future with United yet to agree a new goalkeeper contract. The Spaniard’s current contract is expected to expire this summer, but De Gea said he was solely focused on finishing the season well.
“I think it’s time to focus only on matches because we play many games in a row, it’s not the time to lose focus and think about contracts,” said De Gea. “My mind is to go ahead and play my best.”