Erik ten Hag fires warning shot to Raphael Varane as he names Man Utd’s first-choice defensive partnership

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Erik ten Hag, Manchester United manager, during pre-season training at Rajamangala National Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand Credit: PA Images
Erik ten Hag, Manchester United manager, during pre-season training at Rajamangala National Stadium, Bangkok, Thailand Credit: PA Images

Lisandro Martinez looks likely to be given the chance to establish himself as a Manchester United regular, with Erik ten Hag seemingly making clear his first-choice central defensive partnership at Old Trafford this season.

Ten Hag is in the process of remodelling the United squad he has inherited. After an underwhelming sixth-place finish last season, it is clear the Dutchman has a big job on his hands. But bringing in new recruits has not proven a simple task.

To that end, Ten Hag – alongside chief executive Richard Arnold and director of football John Murtough – have had to bide their time this summer. After a slow start, United made their first signing in Tyrell Malacia, while Christian Eriksen was finally confirmed last week.

They are two players Ten Hag knows well from his time in the Netherlands. And continuing with that theme, Ten Hag has made Martinez his latest signing and most costly one to date. Indeed, with Ajax putting up a tough resistance, United were forced to agree a package that could reach £57m.

However, there are some who question the wisdom in signing Martinez.

At 5ft 9in tall, he’s far from the tallest central defender in the Premier League. As such, the United boss has already tackled the height issue and assessed what Martinez will bring.

All the same, he is added to a host of quality options United boast in central defence. Indeed, he will compete with Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof for a place in the heart of defence. Other options, such as Axel Tuanzebe, Eric Bailly and Phil Jones are likely to move on.

Following Martinez’s arrival, there are some wondering if Maguire’s position in the side may be under threat.

Ten Hag backing for Harry Maguire

However, speaking before Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace in Melbourne, Ten Hag suggests Maguire will be United’s first picks.

Responding to a question about Maguire still being first choice, Ten Hag commented: “I think he is.

“Harry has proved it in the past, but he has also to prove it in the present and in the future. I will support him everywhere I can.

“In the end, he has to do it by himself, and he has the qualities to do it. He’s shown it so often in the past. He’s played 60 times for England. Harry is really impressive and I expect a lot from him.

“But there is also internal competition and that is what a club like United needs. You cannot win with 11 players. We need a squad, especially this season with so many games.

“We have the Europa League, the Premier League and the World Cup. So we need a full squad with high-quality players not quantity.”

Lisandro Martinez also talked up by Erik ten Hag

With Varane missing United’s first two games of the summer through injury, his absence continues a familar theme for the Frenchman at Old Trafford.

He appeared just 29 times in his maiden season, with a string of injuries preventing him from truly establishing himself. And with Varane also missing out so far, Martinez looks set to be handed his chance to impress alongside Maguire.

“I think the players who are there, we have the perspective immediately to contribute and also Lisandro Martinez,” Ten Hag said.

“We bring him in to not strengthen the squad, but the team. I think we have good players there but I think also that we need a squad that is also good and deep. I analysed United last year in the left part of the defence.

“He is left-footed and that is an advantage in possession and defending. And he also brings a South American spirit, I call it an aggressiveness, control, he can bring spirit to the team and in co-operation with the fans. I think it will fit really good to Manchester United and the way we play.”

Maguire tended to start on the left side of the Manchester United central defence last season. However, given he is right footed, he will like switch from left centre-half to right centre-half to accommodate Martinez.

That will hopefully bring about a big improvement in Maguire, who was subject to widespread criticism last season.

United, meanwhile, are reportedly preparing an improved bid for Antony, with Ten Hag prepared to sacrifice a talented youngster to seal his signature.

The article Erik ten Hag fires warning shot to Raphael Varane as he names Man Utd’s first-choice defensive partnership appeared first on Teamtalk.com.

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