Manchester United fans were already concerned about their side’s lack of goalscorers but Luke Shaw’s horrific leg break, and likely six month absence now has them worrying about the defence as well.
The England left back suffered a double fracture of his right leg in Tuesday’s 2-1 Champions League defeat at PSV Eindhoven after a scything tackle in the penalty area by Mexican Hector Moreno.
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The game was stopped for eight minutes while medical staff attended to Shaw, who was carried off on a stretcher with an oxygen mask strapped to his face.
United said in an update on Wednesday that Shaw had surgery immediately after the match at the St. Anna Hospital in Geldrop and would remain in Eindhoven to continue his recovery.
His team mates returned home on Wednesday.
Moreno, who broke his leg playing for Mexico against United manager Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands at the 2014 World Cup and sent a message of support to Shaw via Twitter, went unpunished.
“It is very bad and sad for him, but also for our team,” said Van Gaal, who replaced Shaw with Argentine Marcos Rojo.
“I’m not a doctor so I cannot say but when you have a double fracture it is four to six months… I hope he will play again this season.”
Shaw had been in top form for club and country after a difficult first year at Old Trafford following his 30 million pounds ($46.27 million) plus move from Southampton.
He had started all of United’s eight games as well as playing in the Euro 2016 qualifiers against San Marino and Switzerland, with England manager Roy Hodgson seeing him as a stalwart in the same fashion as Ashley Cole.
His prolonged absence will be a blow for Hodgson, even if England’s place at next year’s finals in France is already secure, as it will for Van Gaal who had spoken last month of how important the player would be in his lineup.
“Luke is a big talent,” the Dutchman, whose side can no longer count on a dominant Rio Ferdinand or Nemanja Vidic-like figure in the heart of the defence, had declared. “I think this shall be the season of Luke Shaw — that I believe.”
Shaw had worked hard on his fitness, paying for a personal trainer to accompany him on holiday in Dubai, and had given United pace down the flank.
With Daley Blind and Chris Smalling in the centre and Matteo Darmian on the right, United have looked solid in defence with fans more focused on where the goals might come from after the exit of Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez and Radamel Falcao.
Apart from Premier League leaders and local rivals Manchester City, who have kept clean sheets in winning their five domestic matches so far, United currently boast the second best defensive record in the top tier along with Arsenal.
Despite that record, there has been concern that the lack of defensive reinforcements in the last transfer window has left United vulnerable to injury.
“He (Shaw) has played so well and been an integral part of this decent start by Manchester United because the back four has been settled,” former Liverpool defender Phil Thompson told Sky Sports television on Wednesday.
Van Gaal will have to change that, with Rojo — who plays left back for Argentina — brought on in a central role at PSV while Blind moved to the left back position instead.
Thompson, for one, was not convinced by the changes which led to both of PSV’s goals. The first came after a deflection off Blind, the second when Luciano Narsingh was left unmarked by Rojo to head home.
“Blind and Smalling have been very good,” said Thompson. “Why did he move Blind to left back and Rojo to centre back when that has been your rock?”