Manchester United’s 3-0 win over West Ham United on Sunday was filled with positives.
Rasmus Hojlund found the back of the net for the fourth time in five Premier League games – he’d previously gone 14 without a goal – and Alejandro Garnacho netted a brace to continue his fine run of form on the right wing.
But such is life at Old Trafford right now, manager Erik ten Hag can never fully have things his own way.
Just three games into his Premier League return, Lisandro Martinez was on the deck clutching his knee once more, sparking fears he’d picked another serious injury. And while the news on the Argentine is not good, it could have been worse.
Yes, Martinez will be sidelined once more with a sprained collateral ligament, but that doesn’t mean his season is over. Far from it, United still have faith that he’ll be fit and able to assist the Red Devils for the run-in, when the club hope to be in a position to challenge for the top four.
For now, it’s back to the drawing board for Ten Hag, working out his best defensive partnership to take United through the upcoming games. Here’s 90min’s ranking of his six best courses of action…
Victor Lindelof’s minutes at Manchester United continue to twindle, so you’d imagine the Swede will not be the one to get the call from Ten Hag unless there’s little alternative.
Harry Maguire or Raphael Varane would be his likely partners in a back four, rather than the ageing Jonny Evans.
Varane and Evans played together earlier in the season, most notably in the 1-0 win over Burnley at Turf Moor – the game that reintroduced Evans to the United faithful.
But with trips to Aston Villa and Manchester City coming up, it’s a partnership that is probably too raw to be risked at this stage of the season – Ten Hag having more established duos who have worked together at his disposal.
Pairing Maguire and Evans isn’t ideal by any stretch of the imagination, particularly if there’s a foot race to be had. They do have 168 international caps between them though, pointing to significant experience when the going gets tough.
Maguire would be the lead partner, with Evans in the supporting role, but the role of the defensive midfielder would be pivotal to making this partnership work in some of the big games that…