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A setback for Manchester United under Lisandro Martinez could be terrible news for Raphael Varane.

Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez gelled well together last season, but their absences have hurt each other this season.

The days of center defenders being only there to defend the team are long gone. There has never been more collegiate football, and while attackers must always defend first, defenders must also develop attacks. The distinctions between positions are become harder to make.

That being said, Erik ten Hag did not select Jonny Evans over Raphael Varane for the Manchester derby because he believed the 35-year-old, who had been demoted the previous season, would be more capable of stopping Erling Haaland than the four-time Champions League winner and World Cup winner. It was because he believed Evans playing on the left instead of Varane improved the balance of his center-backs on the ball.

That statement also perhaps treats Evans a little unfairly in part.More than anything else, his lack of availability contributed to Leicester’s relegation.

He is still a capable center back in the Premier League. He hasn’t, however, actually taken Varane’s class.

There were gasps on social media when it was revealed that the selection call to play City was tactical.

Even though it didn’t seem like a brilliant move after United lost 3-0, Ten Hag continued to start Evans and Harry Maguire against Fulham, keeping Varane on the bench once more.

Despite how terrible United has been playing lately, the defense has improved somewhat, and Maguire and Evans are both having good games. However, Ten Hag clarified during the derby that his choice had less to do with stopping the opposition and more to do with how United structures their assaults.

“When you play against City, they will press you and then play with Maguire on the left and Rapha [Varane, on the right], which can cause issues and leave you kicking only long balls.” stated Ten Hag.

“He is better on the right, in my opinion, Harry, especially against teams that press high. Secondly, you have to get over that side, and that was our strategy—to get over Julian Alvarez and elevate Sofyan Amrabat so that the press would be applied during their build-up.”

This comes after a recent series of statements he has made characterizing Maguire as Varane’s competitor rather than anyone else. It implies that he believes the two are competing for the right-sided position, and the former captain is currently performing admirably.

That was the situation during the previous campaign, when Luke Shaw frequently took Lisandro Martinez’s place as a left-sided center back, maintaining the tradition of having a left- and right-footed player at the center of defense. A left-footed player in that capacity “gets better angles in your possession game and we want to dictate in and out of possession,” according to Ten Hag, who explained Shaw’s selection. You possess a superior build-up.”

However, that option isn’t available right now.

Ten Hag stated in Copenhagen on Tuesday night that Martinez is unlikely to return this season, and Shaw is still sidelined due to injury. It would be intriguing to watch if Varane plays on Wednesday night at Parken Stadium and, if so, who he replaces.

But it might just be a short-term relief. Ten Hag appears to have found a balance between Evans and Maguire that suits United both in and out of possession. Perhaps Martinez and Varane would work together again if he was available. The former Real Madrid center back may need to exercise patience for the time being.

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