Odion Ighalo is set to start for Manchester United’s in Europa League match with Lask on Thursday, March 12, after Anthony Martial was ruled out of the contest with injury.
The Frenchman is a doubt for the Premier League trip to Tottenham on Sunday after hurting himself when colliding with a post in the victory over Manchester City.
However, there is one cheering news for Ole Gunnar Solskjær regarding injuries as the manager hopes to have Paul Pogba available for the return last-16 leg with Lask at Old Trafford next week, the midfielder nearing full recovery following ankle surgery.
While United play the opening leg behind closed doors at the Linzer Stadion on Thursday because of concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus, the loss of Martial is a blow because of his form and the injury-enforced absence of the leading scorer Marcus Rashford.
The Frenchman’s strike in the 2-0 win against City on Sunday took him to 16 for the season, one fewer than his career best of 17 for United which he registered in 2015-16.
His absence leaves Solskjær with Ighalo and Mason Greenwood as his two fit strikers.
The manager said: “Anthony hurt himself when he slid into a post so he’s not ready, hopefully he’s ready for Sunday so but I’m not sure – he’s struggling a little bit. Paul is getting closer – he’s not trained with the team yet or fully with the team but by next week he will be ready.”
Pogba last featured in the 4-1 Boxing Day win against Newcastle and has managed only eight appearances in total due to previous ankle problems.
If United can knock Lask out they will progress to the competition’s quarter-final stage. They are also in the same round of the FA Cup and three points behind Chelsea in fourth place. Solskjær warned his players that this is the “business end” of the campaign and they have to compete for selection.
“Our mindset is getting there,” he said. “The focus is getting there and the squad we’re building – with competition for places. Scotty [McTominay] was talking about this – yes he wants to play but he still wants Nemanja [Matic] to do well which is a great position to be in as a manager.
“We’ve got now 24, 25 players training, competing every day and they all know it’s the business end of the season, we’re not giving out game-time now for the sake of game-time, you need to perform to be in and around the first team and even on the bench.”
The manager is intent that the empty stadium on Thursday night does not cause United to lose focus.
“We are going to have to create our own atmosphere,” the Norwegian said. “There’s no doubt my players are focused and ready to perform even if there are no spectators there. Of course it will be strange, it would be strange to see Scotty sliding in front of nobody like he did on Sunday [after scoring the second goal in the derby] for example. So it makes for a stranger atmosphere but we are just going to make the