Early injury boost for United ahead of Villa reunion
Manchester United are set to have a welcome battle royal on in the centre of defence for Saturday's Premier League visit to Aston Villa.
Reds interim boss Ralf Rangnick admitted his centre-back options were almost down to the bare bones against Villa in our third round Emirates FA Cup win.
But he hopes the numbers will have doubled in the rearguard when United make the trip to the Midlands for the tea time league clash against Steve Gerrard’s side (17:30 GMT).
Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof were the sixth centre-back combination our German boss has selected since his first game in charge against Crystal Palace in December.
Rangnick began his role with the heart of defence consisting of Lindelof and captain Harry Maguire.
Then he named Eric Bailly and Nemanja Matic in the two centre-back positions against Young Boys in the Champions League.
Varane and Maguire partnered each other at Newcastle United after Christmas, before Maguire teamed up with Bailly against Burnley.
The return of Phil Jones saw him feature alongside Varane against Wolves, before the latest twosome of Varane and Lindelof.
Injuries and illness have combined to muddy his choices and, despite the Swede and French defenders playing well against Villa in the Cup, Rangnick is delighted the medical situation at the back is picking up.
“Yesterday (Sunday) we had two centre-backs available. All the other ones were injured and not yet available,” Ralf told a post-match press conference.
“So for us it was very important to have Rapha [Varane] back again.
“Hopefully for the away game at Villa on Saturday we will also have a few other players available including Harry [Maguire] in the centre-back position. That will give us more options.
“Phil Jones will also hopefully be fit again on Saturday.”
Maguire was absent with injury against Wolves and Jones, having made his comeback from almost two years of injury hell against the Molineux side, was also unavailable against Villa for the FA Cup tie.
Eric Bailly is on international duty with the Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.