As the new year approaches, Manchester United is bracing itself for a challenging period with the absence of two key summer signing who will be representing their respective nations in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
Cameroonian shot-stopper Andre Onana is set to miss significant game time in January and February due to Cameroon’s qualification for AFCON.
His participation in the tournament comes after a reconciliation with national team manager Rigobert Song following a previous announcement of retirement from international football.
Equally, Moroccan midfielder Sofyan Amrabat will be unavailable for Manchester United as he dons his national team colours for AFCON.
Depending on the progress of their respective nations in AFCON, Onana and Amrabat could potentially miss up to nine crucial games for Manchester United.
This includes pivotal English Premier League clashes against teams like Tottenham Hotspur, Wolves, West Ham United, and Aston Villa.
The timing of AFCON could not have been worse for Manchester United, as both legs of the League Cup semi-finals (if the club advances) and the third and fourth rounds of the FA Cup are also scheduled during this period.
In a potential double blow, the first leg of the UEFA Champions League Last 16 falls just two days after the AFCON final, making it unlikely for Onana or Amrabat to participate if their respective nations advance to that stage.
To fill the void left by Onana, Manchester United is expected to rely on their new signing, Turkish goalkeeper Altay Bayindir.
Known for his shot-stopping abilities and confidence in dealing with crosses and onrushing strikers, Bayindir will have a significant role to play during Onana’s absence.
In the absence of Sofyan Amrabat, Manchester United will likely turn to the likes of Casemiro, Mason Mount, Christian Eriksen and Scott McTominay to hold down the midfield. Their presence will be crucial in maintaining the club’s midfield stability.