REVEALED: Erik ten Hag has been training with Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez in central defence for Manchester United… leaving captain Harry Maguire at risk of being dropped for Liverpool showdown
- Manchester United are set to host Liverpool at Old Trafford on Monday night
- Erik ten Hag’s men will be seeking their first points of the 2022-23 season
- Lisandro Martinez is expected to keep his place in defence despite a shaky start
- Ten Hag has been training with Martinez and Raphael Varane at centre-back
Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag is set to pair Raphael Varane with Lisandro Martinez against Liverpool tonight after putting the centre-backs together in training last week – with captain Harry Maguire facing demotion to the bench.
United will aim to secure their first points of the season after beginning the campaign with defeats against Brighton and Brentford, which has already piled the pressure on Ten Hag just two games into his tenure.
The Red Devils were beaten 2-1 by Graham Potter’s men on their new head coach’s Old Trafford bow, before they fell four goals behind in the space of 35 minutes away at Brentford.
Lisandro Martinez (L) and Raphael Varane (R) have been training at centre-back together ahead of Manchester United’s clash with Liverpool
Harry Maguire could be dropped from the starting lineup at Old Trafford on Monday night
New defensive recruit Martinez struggled in both losses, particularly in the four-goal drubbing against a buoyant Bees side, who took advantage of the defender’s 5ft 9in frame and outmuscled him on the day.
Many have questioned whether the £57m signing is tall enough to operate at centre-back in the Premier League, pointing to his height as a major cause for concern.
However, Sportsmail understands that Ten Hag is planning to pair Martinez with Varane in their crunch clash with Liverpool after training with the duo at centre-back last week.
That means Maguire, who has also come in for criticism after United’s opening two defeats, is likely to drop to the bench at Old Trafford this evening.
Ten Hag is set to alter his backline after suffering two opening defeats in the Premier League
Martinez struggled with the physicality of Brentford in their 4-0 defeat vs Thomas Frank’s men
Maguire also came in for criticism and is now expected to be axed from Ten Hag’s starting XI
The England international has been scrutinised heavily by Red Devils fans over the past year, with some calling for him to be axed as captain following Ten Hag’s arrival.
Yet despite the signing of Martinez, the Dutchman remained adamant in pre-season that Maguire was one of the first names on his team sheet.
‘We bring [Martinez] in to not strengthen the squad, but the team,’ Ten Hag said. ‘Is Maguire a first-choice? I think he is.
‘He’s proved it in the past but he also has to prove it in the present time and in the future.
‘He has played how many times? Sixty times for England? He is a career that is really impressive and I expect a lot from him.
‘But there is also internal competition and that is what a club like Man United needs.’