Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag already has an X-factor in defence ahead of tomorrow’s Europa League meeting against Barcelona at Old Trafford.
The Red Devils were hugely impressive in the first leg of the knockout play-off at Camp Nou. They played out a thrilling 2-2 draw, but should have won with the chances created.
United will be favourites for the second leg at home and ahead of the game, Ten Hag already has an X-factor with Lisandro Martinez available after his European suspension.
In Martinez’s absence, Luke Shaw played in central defence alongside Raphael Varane last week. The Englishman was decent but had moments where Robert Lewandowski easily got behind him.
Fortunately, the Pole was not at his clinical best. United can ill-afford to repeat the same on Thursday.
With Martinez back in the squad, Ten Hag and United have been handed a huge boost. The Argentine has been rock-solid in recent months and will provide better defensive resolve.
The World Cup winner will make it tough for Lewandowski with his strong ground challenges but he is no slouch in the air either, having won over 50 per cent of his aerial duels this term.
A team of Barcelona’s calibre could still find the back of the net, but the presence of Martinez alongside Varane should limit their chances on goal compared to the opening leg.
In our opinion, there will be goals tomorrow. United may have to score twice again to beat the Catalans at home. Marcus Rashford will obviously be the main player to watch out for.
The United graduate has a stunning 24 goals and eight assists this season. He found success getting behind Barcelona’s highline at Camp Nou and we could see more of the same.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com and Sofascore.com
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