Rio Ferdinand has hit out at Paul Merson after the Arsenal legend questioned Manchester United deadline-day signing Marcel Sabitzer.
United quickly began searching for midfield reinforcements after discovering Christian Eriksen would be out for around three months with an ankle injury.
The injury blow risked leaving Erik ten Hag short but Manchester United completed a loan deal for Austria midfielder Sabitzer on deadline day to compensate for Eriksen’s absence.
Sabitzer, 28, joins United on loan from Bayern Munich until the end of the season.
The Austrian spent six productive seasons at RB Leipzig before joining Bayern in the summer of 2021, but Merson questioned his credentials as United began working on the deal, describing it as a ‘panic buy’.
‘He doesn’t get in the Bayern Munich team, he’s way off that,’ Merson told Sky Sports. ‘I know the two in midfield are cemented but if he was that good, he’d be pushing.
‘Again it goes back to panic. There was no interest in him on January 1, now it’s a panic, Eriksen’s just got injured and it’s a panic and you’re bringing fourth rate Bayern Munich players in. For me, I’m not sure about that.
‘This lad wasn’t on the radar before, he doesn’t get in the Bayern Munich team. If I’m a Manchester United fan I’d be looking and thinking he’s not in their first team so why would we want him in our team. Are there players there already who are better than him?’
But Ferdinand strongly disagrees with Merson’s verdict on Sabitzer and says the comments ‘stink’ of someone who has not seen the player in action.
‘I am absolutely delighted with it,’ Ferdinand said on the FIVE YouTube channel. ‘If I was trying to get a short-term replacement for Eriksen at the drop of a hat, Sabitzer is the player I would get.
‘I watched a hell of a lot of this player when he was at RB Leipzig and he was sensational. He was integral to everything they did.
‘Yes he’s gone to Bayern and hasn’t tore it up there or become a regular but the players he’s behind are big, household names.
‘He will be a really good signing for Man United. He’s an experienced player who has played in big games, Champions League games.
‘For me, those comments [from Paul Merson] stink of someone who hasn’t seen him play and who wouldn’t know who he is or if he’s left or right-footed because you can’t say it’s a bad signing.
‘This guys knows how to play football. You don’t get signed by Bayern Munich if you’re a chump. He’s a really, really good footballer. Manchester United couldn’t have done any better, I don’t think.’
Manchester United are currently fourth in the Premier League and face Nottingham Forest in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final on Wednesday night. United won the away leg 3-0.
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