Manchester United’s Christian Eriksen is set to be out until at least late April with an ankle injury sustained in Saturday’s FA cup victory against Reading.
The midfielder was substituted after 57 minutes, and United said he was caught by a tackle from Andy Carroll.
Carroll was later sent off after being booked for fouls on Tyrell Malacia and Casemiro.
“This tackle and the two tackles after, they don’t belong on the football pitch,” said United boss Erik ten Hag.
“Football has to set limits, restrictions, that you protect the players.
“I think what football wants is the best players being available on the pitch.”
Denmark international Eriksen has made 31 appearances for United this season.
The former Ajax, Tottenham, Inter Milan and Brentford player signed a three-year contract at Old Trafford in the summer.
“[He] is expected to be out of action for an extended period,” the club said.
“There is hope that Christian can return in time to play a role in the final stages of the season.
“While investigations are continuing, initial assessments indicate that Eriksen is likely to be out until late April or early May.”
United are already missing midfielder Donny van de Beek who was ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury in January.
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Ten Hag believes the club have the “players who can fill the gap” caused by Eriksen’s absence, but United are in talks to sign Austria midfielder Marcel Sabitzer on loan from Bayern Munich.
“On deadline day it’s difficult [to bring in a replacement]. You can’t make policy on such bad injuries,” the manager said.
“But we have players in the midfield department and good players.”
In his news conference before United’s Carabao Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest on Wednesday, Ten Hag, speaking about Eriksen, added: “Of course he’s disappointed about it, we are disappointed about it.
“I wish it hadn’t happened. It’s quite clear Christian brings top quality to our squad and he has some specifics that are hard to replace.”
On Fred playing in Eriksen’s role, Ten Hag said: “He’s playing together with Casemiro in the Brazil squad.
“You see against Tottenham and Manchester City he has a lot of qualities and they’re a good combination.”