Manchester United ace must use rare Sevilla opportunity to show his worth to Erik ten Hag
When Manchester United drew Sevilla in the Champions League quarter-finals, Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane would have been expecting to feature in both legs. Now, though, neither of the defenders will play any part in the second leg clash.
Erik ten Hag‘s first-choice centre-back pairing were both injured in the first leg draw with Sevilla last week. Earlywhose injury has not been specified, was withdrawn at half-time of the clash at Old Trafford, while Martinez was carried off towards the end of the game with a fractured metatarsal.
It was confirmed that the World Cup winner would be out for the remainder of the season, which came as a major blow to the Reds, especially given his impressive debut campaign at United. His partner, on the other hand, is out for ‘a number of weeks’. It remains unclear exactly how long the influential Frenchman will be sidelined for, but he will not return in time for the second leg clash against Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium.
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With Varane and Martinez out of action, Ten Hag’s options are limited. The Dutchman has played left-back Luke Shaw at centre-back on occasions this season, while casemiro has also operated in central defence this season. Given United’s lack of available midfielders – and with Bruno Fernandes suspended – the Brazilian ace is unlikely to drop back into defence, but Shaw could potentially return to the side in that position. The England international missed the 2-0 win over Nottingham Forest through injury.
Therefore, it is expected that United will line up against Sevilla with Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire at the heart of defence. The pair kept a clean sheet at the City Ground at the weekend, and if the Reds are to progress to the semi-finals of the Europa League, they will have to do something similar on Thursday night.
For Maguire, it is likely to be just his 15th start of the campaign. After scoring an own goal in the draw last week, the 30-year-old will be desperate to make amends and help United get past their Spanish opponents. He managed to overcome a shaky start against Forest at the weekend, but with the Reds’ place in Europe hanging in the balance, the England defender will need to deliver in his most important start of the season.
Seven of his starts have come in the Premier League, but he was not selected for most of the so-called ‘bigger games’. For example, he was left on the bench for the top-flight matches against Liverpool (home and away), Arsenal (away) and Newcastle (away). He didn’t start in either leg of the semi-final or the final in the Carabao Cup and was an unused substitute against Barcelona (both legs) and Real Betis (first leg) in the Europa League.
The defender did play the full 90 minutes in the FA Cup quarter-final win over Fulham, but with United playing against nine men for the last 20 minutes or so, it eventually proved to be a comfortable victory for the Reds – despite Ten Hag’s men having to come from behind.
Maguire has been coy on his future at Old Trafford when quizzed on the matter, but most people expect the former Leicester man to depart in the summer. The club view him as a sellable asset, despite his lack of consistent action this campaign. The centre-back has made 27 appearances in all competitions this term, but the upcoming game against Sevilla is the most important for the defender.
While his future will not be decided by his performance against the La Liga side, he can show his manager that he can be trusted in the crunch period of the campaign. With two of his competitors sidelined – one until next season – Maguire should get the opportunity he has been craving all term.
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