Man Utd’s best centre-back pairings after new Lisandro Martinez injury

Manchester United’s 3-0 win over West Ham United on Sunday was filled with positives.

Rasmus Hojlund found the back of the net for the fourth time in five Premier League games – he’d previously gone 14 without a goal – and Alejandro Garnacho netted a brace to continue his fine run of form on the right wing.

But such is life at Old Trafford right now, manager Erik ten Hag can never fully have things his own way.

Just three games into his Premier League return, Lisandro Martinez was on the deck clutching his knee once more, sparking fears he’d picked another serious injury. And while the news on the Argentine is not good, it could have been worse.

Yes, Martinez will be sidelined once more with a sprained collateral ligament, but that doesn’t mean his season is over. Far from it, United still have faith that he’ll be fit and able to assist the Red Devils for the run-in, when the club hope to be in a position to challenge for the top four.

For now, it’s back to the drawing board for Ten Hag, working out his best defensive partnership to take United through the upcoming games. Here’s 90min’s ranking of his six best courses of action…

Victor Lindelof, Harry MaguireVictor Lindelof, Harry Maguire

Lindelof and Maguire isn’t the preferred option / Pool/GettyImages

Victor Lindelof’s minutes at Manchester United continue to twindle, so you’d imagine the Swede will not be the one to get the call from Ten Hag unless there’s little alternative.

Harry Maguire or Raphael Varane would be his likely partners in a back four, rather than the ageing Jonny Evans.

Raphael Varane, Jonny EvansRaphael Varane, Jonny Evans

Varane and Evans paired together in the win over Burnley / Matt McNulty/GettyImages

Varane and Evans played together earlier in the season, most notably in the 1-0 win over Burnley at Turf Moor – the game that reintroduced Evans to the United faithful.

But with trips to Aston Villa and Manchester City coming up, it’s a partnership that is probably too raw to be risked at this stage of the season – Ten Hag having more established duos who have worked together at his disposal.

Harry Maguire, Jonny EvansHarry Maguire, Jonny Evans

Maguire and Evans were torn apart by Manchester City / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/GettyImages

Pairing Maguire and Evans isn’t ideal by any stretch of the imagination, particularly if there’s a foot race to be had. They do have 168 international caps between them though, pointing to significant experience when the going gets tough.

Maguire would be the lead partner, with Evans in the supporting role, but the role of the defensive midfielder would be pivotal to making this partnership work in some of the big games that have been mentioned. Kobbie Mainoo, your young legs may be required.

Luke Shaw, Mason Mount, Raphaël Varane, Lisandro MartínezLuke Shaw, Mason Mount, Raphaël Varane, Lisandro Martínez

Varane and Shaw in pre-season / Visionhaus/GettyImages

Varane has spent much of his United career playing on the right of a centre-back pairing, so he’s the natural fit if Ten Hag opts to push Shaw centrally and asks Diogo Dalot to fill in at left-back.

The 30-year-old may have a tough time ousting Harry Maguire from the team though – he’s been rock solid ever since Ten Hag performed a U-turn and welcomed him back into the first team fold.

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Harry Maguire, Luke ShawHarry Maguire, Luke Shaw

Maguire and Shaw have a good understanding / Matthew Ashton – AMA/GettyImages

Maguire and Shaw have played hundreds of times together for club and country, though most of those games were as a left centre-back and left-back.

The latter has shown the maturity to play in the centre – at a time when Maguire was out of favour – and Ten Hag completely trusts him in the role. A lack of pace could be exploited by teams who like to get in behind, but that’s where their strong communication could come into play.

Raphael Varane, Harry MaguireRaphael Varane, Harry Maguire

Pairing Maguire with Varane seems the most obvious solution / Lewis Storey/GettyImages

The most obvious solution is pairing Maguire with World Cup winner Varane, keeping Shaw in his favoured left-back position and then choosing between Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka on the right.

Both are leaders, have played for club and country in the biggest matches, and have the temperament to take United through another challenging period without arguably their best defender. Varane may also have a point to prove by lining up alongside Maguire – his future at the club could be on the line after all.


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