Premier League

When Erik ten Hag expects Man Utd defender to return

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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is optimistic that centre-back Lisandro Martinez will return from his latest injury setback before the end of the season.

Martinez suffered medial collateral ligament damage in his right knee during Sunday’s 3-0 win over West Ham United, initially trying to play on but conceding defeat 71 minutes in.

A statement from the club later confirmed the nature of the injury and an expected absence of at least eight weeks. That would rule out a return before April as a minimum and still left the Argentine a doubt for the remainder of the campaign. But Ten Hag is hopeful he will return this season.

“It is a setback of course,” the United boss admitted at a press conference on Thursday.

“Licha was just returning. You see his contribution to the team when he is playing so he brings, apart from his technical skills, also a mentality in the team.

“It is a big setback for Licha. He is very disappointed, but he is a fighter and he will back, he will be back stronger. We think he will still be back by the end of the season.

“There are games to play so as a squad we have to replace him. We have very good players in that position who will play there and perform there and as a squad we have to deal with it.”

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Starting with Saturday’s Premier League trip to Aston Villa, Martinez stands to miss eight games over the next eight weeks, possibly more if United continue to progress in the FA Cup. Even if the early April timeframe proves accurate, it would have him reaching the end of his recovery just as Ten Hag’s team are due to face Chelsea and Liverpool and quick succession.

Martinez’s injury problems began towards the end of last season when he suffered a broken metatarsal while in Europa League action against Sevilla. He recovered from that problem in time to start the new campaign but wound up aggravating it during the defeat to Arsenal at the start of September and then played two further games against Brighton and Bayern Munich.

The Argentine missed the rest of 2023, not making his return until coming off the bench for the final 27 minutes of the 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur last month. United had then won all three…

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