Manchester United have suffered a long list of injuries this season with 17 being ruled out at some point. Perhaps Lisandro Martinez’s setback is the one felt most. Casemiro was ruled out of the clash with Sheffield United with a minor knock but he has hardly reached the heights of last season.
Martinez had by no means been incredible but United’s defensive struggles this season maybe would not have been as severe had he been in the side. In United’s first 11 matches, Andre Onana had seen six different centre-back partners in front of him.
Raphael Varane has been injured twice already while Harry Maguire had been ruled out at one stage. United have had no consistency at the back and that is partly why 19 goals were conceded in the period before the second international break.
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Martinez may not return until 2024 in what is a real blow. The Argentina World Cup winner is suffering from a recurring injury, a repeat of April’s season-ending metatarsal setback. Surgery was soon scheduled and a long road back to fitness began. The recurring injury is a concern in itself.
The 25-year-old was in a huge amount of pain when he first sustained the problem with Sevilla players and countrymen Marcos Acuna and Gonzalo Montiel having to carry him off the pitch before he was taken down the Old Trafford tunnel on a stretcher.
Martinez showed tremendous courage to come back in time for the start of pre-season and he will need the same valiant mindset as he goes through the process again. His metatarsal setback is something he will be mindful of going forward.
Certain injuries have plagued players for the rest of their careers and United will be praying this is not one of those situations. But United cannot dwell on what-ifs at the moment.
The team finished the match against Brentford with just three fit defenders after Victor Lindelof went off with a complaint. Fortunately, a number have since returned to reduce the shortfall but United still find themselves in a less-than-ideal situation.
Varane has not been overwhelmingly fantastic so far but he is the first centre-back on the team sheet at the moment. Meanwhile, Ten Hag has to navigate a busy season with either Maguire, Lindelof or Jonny Evans as the other central defender.
When going for the biggest honours and fighting for Premier League places, this is a concerning picture. Evans was brought in as an emergency back-up this summer while at the same time there were calls for the other two to be sold.
It all adds to the instability and uncertainty in front of Onana, who has endured a torrid start and is lacking confidence himself. United will want to get Martinez back as quickly as possible but the situation he faces means any kind of rush-back would be foolish and unfair.
United have to deal with the cards they have right now, and this is perhaps one of the last on-field remnants left from the pre-Ten Hag era that is still affecting today’s mission.