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Marcel Sabitzer on deadline day: Why this deal affirms the changes sweeping through Man Utd

COMMENT: Marcel Sabitzer on deadline day. These were the actions of proper football men running a proper football club. If ever you needed a sign of how things have changed at Manchester United, this was it...

And it was a deal not driven by the manager. Erik ten Hag was given final choice, sure. But the groundwork was laid in the early hours of that Tuesday morning by those employed to support him. John Murtough drove the deal. The club's football director ably supported by his No2 Andy O'Boyle, director of data science Dominic Jordan and head of recruitment operations Steve Brown.

The diagnosis from Christian Eriksen's ankle setback was three months. That news came less than 48 hours before the deadline was due to fall. Recent history suggested United's top brass would chalk it down to bad luck and tell the manager to get on with it. But that history, under this manager, has been ripped up. United moved like a major football club. With major ambitions. And when Ten Hag, from a choice of ten names put together by Murtough and his team, chose Sabitzer, United moved to swiftly and clinically.

It was the same in the summer. A frustrated trip to Barcelona to fetch Frenkie de Jong ended with Murtough returning to Manchester - via Madrid - boasting the verbal commitment of Casemiro. They're now doing things differently at Old Trafford. And for the better.

Sabitzer still had to be convinced. But it took little coaxing. A first chat on the phone with Ten Hag led to the Austrian jumping on a jet and getting himself to Carrington in the afternoon. During which negotiations between United and Bayern Munich would rumble on. Those talks ran smoothly. Just as they had with Real Madrid for Casemiro. As the day wore on, there were no errors on required contracts submitted. No faulty fax machines. And a deal, which had been hatched only that morning, was completed before night had fallen.

So Ten Hag has his player. One to cover Eriksen. But Sabitzer offers more than that. As his new manager acknowledged for his club presentation, Sabitzer can play in his several positions. Time with Julian Nagelsmann, across two clubs, has seen Sabitzer converted from an outright striker with RB Leipzig, to a defensive midfielder of real renown. At Bayern this season, Nagelsmann has even had Sabitzer fill in as an emergency left-back.

But it must be said, the 28 year-old arrives at Old Trafford with it all to prove. A popular member inside the Bayern dressing room, Sabitzer has struggled to find his place on the pitch. A "good 14th or 15th man" is how Lothar Matthaus, the former Bayern captain, describes the Austrian. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the club's former chief exec, went further, declaring Sabitzer "a luxury signing" who "has offered little to improve Bayern's squad".

Mario Basler, another Bayern old boy, has been even harsher: "Many players have tried Bayern. Lukas Podolski and Mario Götze were also unable to assert themselves. I don't think Bayern will be seeing Sabitzer for much longer. Leipzig's leap in quality to Bayern is another one."

And to be fair, for the moment, Basler's prediction has been proven right. Though Nagelsman has always been adamant that his former RB Leipzig captain would eventually establish himself.

"He's not missing that much," said Bayern's coach before the World Cup break. "It's just a bigger dimension. He has national players as competitors. If you come as a newcomer, you're at the back.

"Sabitzer will play his games and put his stamp on them."

Well, those games will now be played in a United shirt. Ten Hag not hanging about to introduce his new name to Old Trafford on Saturday. And Sabitzer turned in a promising performance. On as a second-half substitute, he showed all that aforementioned versatility in victory over Crystal Palace. He bit into tackles. He played clever, snappy inside passes. And he also had the stadium on it's feet with a surging run through the inside-left channel. At times he would sit in front of the back four. But he'd also get himself forward to act as a passing target for attacking teammates. As we say, for a first outing, it promised much.

The son of former Austria striker Herfried Sabitzer, who played against Scotland in World Cup qualifying, Sabitzer will seek to use this winning debut as a platform to relaunch his career. Not the least with Casemiro now facing a three-match ban for Saturday's red card.

Indeed, with the Brazilian now missing, for Ten Hag the presence of Sabitzer couldn't be better. A player signed to cover the absence of Eriksen's attacking strengths, also capable of stepping in to make up for the defensive loss of Casemiro.

And that option only now exists thanks to the way the management team came together in the early hours of Tuesday morning to get this Sabitzer deal done. If ever you needed a sign of how things have changed at Manchester United, this was it...

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