Manchester United seem to have rediscovered their famous old never-say-die attitude under Erik ten Hag with the club rescuing points from the jaws of defeat in the last four games.
This was supposed to be a crucial week for the Red Devils with games against two members of the top four — Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea along with a daunting test against in-form Newcastle United.
Varane-Martinez pairing propels United
United did not lose a single game, garnering five points from a possible nine. Ten Hag’s philosophy is starting to take shape as United dominated possession in all three games and had the majority of the chances.
A lack of ruthlessness up front did cost the team but their defending was a particular highlight.
United kept two clean sheets and would have kept a third if not for a clumsy foul by substitute Scott McTominay which saw the referee award Chelsea a penalty.
Ten Hag has found his ideal defensive pairing in the form of Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane. Whenever the duo have started, United have looked far more secure and have lost only once in the league.
And former United defender Rio Ferdinand admitted that he felt the absence of Varane will be a huge blow for the Red Devils.
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He praised new recruit Martinez but also admitted that Varane’s skill-set was hard to replace with the existing options at the Dutch boss’ disposal.
For United’s sake, it is imperative that the duo are reunited soon. As per current forecasts, it seems the French defender will next be available to play for the Red Devils only after the World Cup.
“Martinez has been top this season but Varane gives us that something different, that speed, that experience and physicality,” Ferdinand said on his Five YouTube channel. “I think he could be a huge loss.
“You need them two [Varane and Martinez] back together. We’ve seen straight away that those two together make us a different team, it’s as simple as that.”
Can United cope without Varane?
The legendary defender, while evaluating United’s chances in the remaining weeks ahead of the Qatar showpiece, added that Victor Lindelof was capable of doing a job in the meanwhile but hopefully it will not be for too long.
Currently, the Swede is the only remaining fit centre-back at United with club captain Harry Maguire still to regain full fitness.
“It seems to me that it isn’t going to be Harry Maguire who comes in now,” Ferdinand added. “It looks like it’s going to be [Victor] Lindelof.”
“Lindelof is decent, I think he will come in and do a job, it just depends how long he’s being asked to do that job,” Ferdinand explained.
United have a total of six games before the World Cup, with three league fixtures, two Europa League games and an EFL Cup tie to contend with.
Ten Hag will be hoping his make-shift defensive pairing can do the job in the World Cup winning defender’s absence.