Demarai Gray of Everton and Victor Lindelof of Manchester United vie for the ball. Credit: Getty.
Manchester United could be without first-choice centre-backs Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane this weekend when the Red Devils travel to Leicester City in the Premier League.
This is the first installment of a huge six-game run for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men that sees them face Leicester, Atalanta (home), Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Atalanta (away) and then Manchester City, before the players head off on another international break.
So having a robust backline in the coming weeks will be key for United after an indifferent start to the 2021/22 season.
What’s the latest with Maguire?
The defender was forced off against Aston Villa last month and missed the three subsequent games with a calf problem.
Maguire also wasn’t included in the latest England squad due to the injury and is not expected to be back for a few more weeks, although Solskjaer hasn’t provided any further prognosis since the Everton draw.
What’s the latest with Varane?
The former Real Madrid man was withdrawn during France’s 2-1 win over Spain at the weekend and is a doubt for the Leicester game.
There is no further update on Varane, and the Manchester Evening News claim he will undergo further tests when he returns to the club this week.
Is Lindelof available?
There was confusion about Victor Lindelof’s availability last week with the centre-back remaining at United’s Carrington base despite being called up to the Sweden squad.
However, Lindelof has now met up with his international team-mates and the Red Devils confirmed on their official website on Monday that the 27-year-old remained in Manchester due to his wife giving birth to their second child.
Lindelof should be involved when Sweden take on Greece in a crucial World Cup qualifier on Tuesday and is expected to start at the King Power Stadium this weekend.
Who will partner Lindelof against Leicester?
Assuming Varane isn’t available, Eric Bailly is the most likely option for Solskjaer.
Once a highly rated prospect, Bailly has dropped to fourth in the pecking order at centre-back and has played just once for the Red Devils this season, in the League Cup loss to West Ham United.
Who else could play centre-back?
Solskjaer is blessed with a squad depth to rival any side in the league, and could also turn to the experienced Phil Jones if needed.
The 29-year-old last played a Premier League match in January 2020 and is fit again after a long-term knee problem.
Another option is youngster Teden Mengi, who has played just one senior game to date. Alternatively, midfielders Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic have been deployed as auxiliary centre-backs in the past.