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

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 remodeling 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 come from a simple task.

To that end, Ten Hag – alongside chief executive Richard Arnold and director of football John Murtough – have had to bid 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 to 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, speak before Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Crystal Palace in MelbourneTen 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 proven 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 familiar 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 also think that we need a squad that is also good and deep. I analyzed 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.”

Lisandro Martinez is a top signing for Man United

Ajax defender Lisandro Martinez is closing in on a move to Manchester United.

Maguire tended to start on the left side of the Man Utd central defense last season. However, given he is right footed, he will like to 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.


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