Centre-backs are giving Erik a selection headache
Manchester United are a club famed for having strong centre-backs at the heart of the defence.
From Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister to Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, now our current crop of central defenders are giving the Dutch manager a positive dilemma ahead of our return of Premier League action, against Nottingham Forest at Old Trafford, on 27 December.
When the season broke for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Raphael Varane, who had been performing well at the beginning of the season, was unavailable due to an injury he sustained away to Chelsea in October.
However, he was selected in Didier Deschamps’s Les Bleus squad, and started their second group-stage match, a 2-1 win over Christian Eriksen’s Denmark.
Varane looked characteristically composed both in and out of possession – a Rolls Royce if you will. The 29-year-old is getting back to his best, and will be hoping to go all the way with France this winter before returning to the Reds at the end of December.
Summer signing Lisandro Martinez has established himself as a fans' favourite since arriving from Ajax.
His passion and tough tackling quickly endeared him to our supporters, and the Argentinian is superb in possession too. He and Varane conjured up a formidable partnership during September and October before the latter suffered his injury.
Martinez went into Qatar 2022 in great form, and despite not starting his nation’s first group-stage game – the shock defeat to Saudi Arabia – Lisandro was key in their second as La Albiceleste won 2-0 against Mexico.
The defender will hope to keep his place in Lionel Scaloni’s side for the crunch Group C clash with Poland on Wednesday, as one of the tournament favourites look to continue their recovery from that opening-match loss.
Argentina’s record without Lisandro Martinez:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) November 27, 2022
❌ 1 loss
⚽ 2 goals conceded
☄️ 3 shots inside the box
🚀 0 shots outside the box
Argentina’s record with Lisandro Martinez:
✅ 1 win
🧼 1 clean sheet
🚀 3 shots outside the box
☄️ 1 shot inside the box
The Butcher. 🪓😮💨 pic.twitter.com/exPWMBwadh
The third United centre-back at the World Cup is Harry Maguire, and it’s safe to say our club captain has shone once more in an England shirt.
In the first match – England’s 6-2 demolition of Iran – Harry provided an assist and was a constant aerial presence, before he was substituted in the second half as a precaution due to feeling ill.
Maguire was able to begin the second group match against USA, again as the left-sided central defender in a back four.
The match ended in an underwhelming 0-0 stalemate, but arguably the main reason England kept a clean sheet was because of our no.5. Harry was constantly in the right place at the right time to tackle and head clear, ensuring the Three Lions did not lose and took what could prove to be a vital point in Group B.
Harry Maguire’s game by numbers vs. USA:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) November 25, 2022
88% pass accuracy
71 passes completed
8 long balls completed
3/4 aerial duels won
1/1 dribble completed
Mopped things up at the back. 🧹 pic.twitter.com/iKX28RjPXL
As for our final regular centre-back, Victor Lindelof, the Sweden defender has been using the winter break to recharge and to partake in charitable work.
Victor is expected to travel with the United first-team squad to Spain in December for the friendlies against Cadiz and Real Betis, as he looks to regain match sharpness ahead of the return to competitive action.
Now, with the end of the winter World Cup group stage starting to come into view, attention will start to shift to our Carabao Cup clash against Burnley on 21 December at Old Trafford.
Depending on how each nation does in Qatar, Erik may have to manage his squad carefully with the final taking place on Sunday 18 December.
Thanks to the form of our World Cup stars, and the work Lindelof will be doing during the winter training camp, Erik looks set to have a talented quartet of central defenders to choose from – a selection headache I’m sure he’d rather have than not.