Before the international break, Manchester United were on a roll as they won their last four Premier League games while opening their account in their Europa League campaign.
Momentum was building and fans were rightly excited about what was to come. Erik ten Hag had even privately told his squad that he felt the squad was good enough to challenge their city rivals Manchester City.
But everything fell apart on derby day as United shipped six goals and pundits ripped through the side and the manager.
Ten Hag started with his trusted pair of Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez but Varane was forced off injured in the first-half itself.
Victor Lindelof was entrusted with the task of partnering Martinez and the duo started against Omonia Nicosia as well midweek.
Harry Maguire expected to be available between 10-14 days. Means he *should* play some football before the World Cup. https://t.co/c6zwL6MDkd
— Sami Mokbel (@SamiMokbel81_DM) October 6, 2022
And the defence is yet to recover from that mauling and were once again culpable as United conceded twice in the Europa League on Thursday.
Ten Hag conceded after the narrow win that he was not pleased with his side’s displays recently and the defensive frailty being exhibited will make things difficult considering the opposition to come in the Premier League this month.
United are set to face the likes of Chelsea, Tottenham, Newcastle and West Ham while Europa League and Carabao Cup games are also set to increase the fixture congestion.
And the Red Devils’ current options at the back are quite limited. Apart from Varane, club captain Harry Maguire is also out after sustaining an injury during the international break.
Martinez and Lindelof are the only two fit centre-backs at Ten Hag’s disposal.
Ten Hag, when asked to specify their return dates, said, “In the case of Rapha, I have good hope [that he will return soon]. Harry will take a little bit longer.”
With 11 games in little over a month, Ten Hag will need all his defenders fit and firing if they are to recapture their previous league form.
According to Sami Mokbel of the Daily Mail, Maguire is likely to be fit within the next two weeks. “Harry Maguire expected to be available between 10-14 days. Means he *should* play some football before the World Cup,” was his exact tweet.
Ten Hag will need to rotate and Maguire needs games to rediscover his form ahead of the World Cup where he is expected to play a major role under Gareth Southgate.
He is likely to get at least a game to improve his fitness levels as Ten Hag will not want to change too much but his return will help during the jam-packed schedule.