Erik ten Hag says he would “ideally” not want to partner Harry Maguire alongside Raphael Varane in the centre of Manchester United’s defence due to both players being right-footed.
Varane, 30, has seen his game time reduced in recent weeks, with Ten Hag opting to start Maguire alongside 35-year-old centre-back Jonny Evans instead.
However, Ten Hag confirmed Evans will miss Saturday’s Premier League fixture against Luton Town after being forced off in the first half of Wednesday’s Champions League group stage defeat to Copenhagen, with Varane partnering Maguire for the remaining 75 minutes. Luke Shaw and Lisandro Martinez, who have both operated as left-sided centre-backs, are also sidelined.
“Ideally (it is either Varane or Maguire), but there are moments in certain games where they can play together and they have already proven they can do it,” Ten Hag said. “But the build-up is not that fluid when one of them is playing from the left centre-back position because I think Licha (Lisandro Martinez), obviously, Luke Shaw, obviously, Jonny Evans and Victor Lindelof are right-footed, but they can play really comfortably with their left and make the right angles, then you can construct a better formation where you can start to play.
“Maguire is doing very well at the moment, and I am very happy with that. As I always said, Maguire can do the job — and now he is showing he can do the job. Rapha Varane always played the games he was available because he was doing that well.”
Former Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes had suggested on TNT Sports Maguire and Evans were Ten Hag’s preferred central defensive partnership because they were the best ball-playing defenders United have available. However, the United manager said this was not the case, instead citing “tactical reasons”.
“That was never the issue,” Ten Hag said. “I think Rapha did very well in combination with Licha Martinez. He was brilliant. I can also see good combinations with Rapha Varane and Evans or with Victor Lindelof. They are very good combinations. It is about tactical reasons why I chose these partnerships.
“What I said last year Harry didn’t play a lot, so I was very happy with Rapha’s performances. I have always been happy with his performance. But in this moment, Harry is playing very well and there is internal competition.”
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