Thursday was a bleak day for Manchester United fans as they watched Lisandro Martinez go down to injury.
United were cruising in their UEFA Europa League first leg quarter final tie against Sevilla, record winners of Europe’s second tier cup. They had used up all five substitutions when the 2022 FIFA World Cup winner went down clutching his foot.
Of those five substitutions, one was Martinez’s centre back partner Raphael Varane, who left at halftime after picking up a knock in the first half.
United would end up drawing the game 2 – 2 thanks to two own goals, one of which came from Harry Maguire, who replaced Varane at half-time.
The Frenchman was confirmed to have picked up a foot injury later and Martinez was confirmed to have fractured a metatarsal bone in his foot. The World Cup winner has been effectively ruled out of the season and the Frenchman is set to miss a few weeks, according to the prognosis from the United camp.
This comes at a crucial time for Erik ten Hag, whose top four challenge in the Premier League has hit a snag. United’s Europa League challenge and FA Cup semi final have also been put in danger thanks to the injuries suffered by both defenders, who have been crucial to ten Hag’s side this season.
Alongside Maguire, Victor Lindelof is the only other centre back that the team has to depend on at this time. Both are quality centre backs, but ten Hag has had more reason to play with the pair of Varane and Martinez for the duration of the season.
Martinez’s ability on the ground is brilliantly paired with Varane’s ability in the air. The Argentina international is also a killer in one-on-one challenges. It properly compliments Varane’s ability to read the various positions of the attackers and place himself in the gaps that need to be plugged when Martinez goes hunting. Both players are also good on the ball.
Switching this dynamic up at this time will give ten Hag a lot to be worried about. Lindelof is a smart defender and Maguire continues to earn Gareth Southgate’s trust in the England national team for his many qualities.
The former Ajax Amsterdam manager has his work cut out for him with the Englishman and the Swede left to tackle the most crucial parts of the season.
How they adapt will be up to his methods as a manager, but Manchester United fans will need a lot of convincing, especially in the case of Harry Maguire.