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Alex Iwobi should thank his lucky stars, injury could have been worse

12:35 GMT 10/01/2023
Alex Iwobi Everton Man Utd 2022-23
The news that the Everton man would be out for three weeks is a relief after Friday’s incident involving Manchester United's Tyrell Malacia

It is never a good look when a player writhes in discomfort after going down injured, with the consensus pointing to a lengthy layoff.

Alex Iwobi was in obvious pain after Tyrell Malacia’s crunching tackle caught the Everton man’s right ankle. Pundits and commentariats often repeat how a certain player on the receiving end of a challenge was fortunate to not have his foot planted to the turf.

That singular reason could be the difference between avoiding a prolonged spell on the sidelines or spending months without game time owing to an injury.

Iwobi was not so lucky. The Nigerian had intercepted Casemiro’s intended pass for Malacia and sprinted upfield on the counter-attack, with Neal Maupay the only Everton player providing support.

The Dutchman’s intervention came before the Nigerian could get a head up to decide to slip Neal Maupay through for what could have been the Toffees’ second goal of the night to put them 2-1 up. It was a good, old-school challenge but the Super Eagle was hurt.

The discomfort was evident, and the former Arsenal midfielder’s reaction suggested he expected to be out for a long time.

“We hope it’s not too serious,” said Frank Lampard after Friday’s 3-1 loss. “It looks like an ankle ligament injury. He will have a scan tomorrow (Saturday) to confirm.”

Seamus Coleman immediately signalled to the club’s medics once he got to the scene and witnessed the Nigerian’s reaction to the Manchester United left-back’s tackle.

Perhaps still reeling from Iwobi’s withdrawal, the Red Devils went in front a minute after the 26-year-old went off, with Conor Coady inadvertently scoring at the wrong end to put Erik ten Hag’s crew 2-1 up. Despite the spirited reaction after Coady’s 51st-minute own goal, the Manchester giants made it 3-1 through Marcus Rashford.

Everton’s beleaguered head coach got the performance he wanted, but not the desired result, thus putting paid to the Merseyside club’s prospects of ending their 28-year wait for a trophy.

That said, social media was inundated with goodwill messages for Iwobi, with fans essentially prepared for the worst-case scenario, ruling out the Nigerian for months, potentially for the rest of the season.

It did not help that Malacia put up a still image preceding the moment where he caught the Nigerian’s ankle, in a customary post-game post on Instagram, without acknowledging the incident or wishing the Nigeria star well. Talk about insensitive and tone-deaf.

The comment section was filled with fuming fans, appalled by the Dutchman’s tone-deafness and absence of compassion. At the time of writing, the post remains up and is still without any kind words for the Everton man.

That said, maybe there was a private apology to the Super Eagle or some remorse shown for a tackle — admittedly a good one — that could rule out the Nigerian for most of Everton’s relegation battle if worst fears materialised.

Iwobi, though, hoped for the best and fans of the Merseyside club waited anxiously for the scan results. Thus, the player and supporters probably took great delight in Everton’s statement on Sunday.

“Alex Iwobi is expected to be out for around three weeks with the ankle ligament injury sustained against Manchester United on Friday,” read a statement on the club’s website. “The Everton midfielder was taken off on a stretcher early in the second half of the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford.

“Scan results on Saturday confirmed a lateral ligament injury that will be managed conservatively by the Club’s medical team at Finch Farm.”

The midfielder is likely to now miss the rest of January, with Lampard’s side to play cellar-dwelling Southampton and underperforming West Ham United. Barring any setbacks, the 26-year-old ought to target Everton’s encounter with old side Arsenal at the start of February for his return.

Having his momentum of regular playing time slowed is far from ideal but Iwobi’s expected three-week absence is a relief. The ramifications could have been more damaging.