Erik ten Hag has said his decision to withdraw Raphael Varane on Sunday was not due to the scoreline as Manchester United suffered a 6-3 derby defeat.
The defender went down in the first half and received treatment on a leg injury, but managed to play on for a few minutes before being replaced.
Yet, with United trailing 3-0 to Manchester City just minutes before half-time, it was suggested Ten Hag may have opted to withdraw Varane more as a preventative measure.
But speaking after the game, the United manager dismissed this notion and said Varane was in too much discomfort to continue.
“I don’t think so, that he would have carried on,” the Dutchman said. “But you get him off because when you are 4-0 down, you don’t want to take a risk to get a bigger injury. But I think it’s that big, the injury, that he couldn’t carry on.”
Reports in France have since claimed Varane sustained a sprained ankle in the derby. L’Equipe reported on Sunday that the 29-year-old’s injury was still swollen and there’s uncertainty at United as to how severe the issue is.
A long-term issue for the former Real Madrid man would be a huge concern ahead of the World Cup later this year, while it may temporarily leave the Red Devils with two fit, senior centre-backs in Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof.
The latter played his first minutes of the Premier League season on Sunday after an injury-impacted beginning to the 2022/23 campaign.
Meanwhile, Harry Maguire is also missing with a problem he sustained on international duty, one which prevented him from playing in Sunday’s derby.
United lost 6-3 at the Etihad after Erling Haaland and Phil Foden both netted hat-tricks for City, while United scored three in the second half from Antony and an Anthony Martial brace which ensured the scoreline was much kinder for Ten Hag’s men.