Man Utd boss Erik ten Hag previews the Nottingham Forest game
For most of his Manchester United reign, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stuck with Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire as his first-choice centre-back pairing. However, in the summer of 2021, he opted to land Raphael Varane due to doubts over the duo. Now, as Erik ten Hag prepares for Sunday’s clash with Nottingham Forest, they’re primed to step up.
Solskjaer inherited Lindelof when he replaced Jose Mourinho as United boss in December 2018.
The Sweden international had blown hot and cold under the Portuguese, having arrived from Benfica roughly 18 months earlier.
And Solskjaer opted to land Maguire back in the summer transfer window of 2019, sanctioning a massive £85million deal for the England international.
For most of the Norwegian’s reign, Lindelof and Maguire were his first-choice pairing when both players were fully fit and firing.
That sometimes frustrated Eric Bailly, who was unhappy at being regularly overlooked in favour of his team-mates.
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But Solskjaer always had faith in Lindelof and Maguire to produce the goods, with the duo helping United finish second in the Premier League table just two years ago.
However, in the summer of 2021, the 50-year-old then performed a U-turn.
Though he never considered selling either player, he finally acknowledged they weren’t good enough for United to challenge for the biggest and best prizes on offer.
His faith in Maguire never waned, but he did harbour doubts over Lindelof and his suitability to his system.
Solskjaer probed a deal for Pau Torres that summer, with reports suggesting the Red Devils were really keen to acquire the Spain international.
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However, upon getting wind Varane was ready to leave Real Madrid, the France international arrived instead.
Solskjaer knew the 2018 World Cup winner would be a huge hit at Old Trafford, having flourished during his decade at the Santiago Bernabeu.
It was a no-brainer for the Norwegian, who also recruited Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo that summer.
Now, however, Maguire and Lindelof are set to play a starring role for the foreseeable future under Ten Hag.
Martinez will be out until the summer, with the Argentina international a huge miss given his impressive start to life in England.
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And Varane will be out for a few weeks, too.
United confirmed the news regarding the pair by saying: “Lisandro Martínez has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after fracturing a metatarsal bone in his foot.
“However, the Argentinian defender is expected to make a full recovery in time to be ready for the start of next season.
“Lisandro’s defensive partner Raphaël Varane was substituted with an injury at half-time in the same game and is expected to be out for a few weeks.
“Everyone at Manchester United sends Lisandro and Rapha our best wishes for a speedy recovery.”
Solskjaer knew Lindelof and Maguire could be dodgy at times, hence his decision to land Varane.
Now, the onus is on the United duo to step up and rise to the occasion in the absence of Ten Hag’s main centre-back axis.
And whether they can help United finish in the top four, and complete a cup treble, remains to be seen.
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