After Erik ten Hag said both would be in his strongest lineup, Harry Maguire and Lisandro Martinez may be Manchester United’s first-choice center defense the next season.
Ten Hag claimed he had hoped to buy a left-footed center-back this summer after closely monitoring United last season and analyzing problems on that side. Martinez is leaving Ajax for a cost that may grow to £55.3 million.
After working together at Ajax, the 24-year-old is expected to sign a five-year deal with an additional year’s option. Ten Hag revealed he is bringing Martinez to the club “to not improve the roster, but the team.”
Maguire, who played in that position for for the entirety of last season, would have been unhappy with the prospect of Martinez replacing him immediately as the team’s left-sided central defender.
However, Maguire played on the right for his first 45 minutes of the preseason – against Melbourne Victory on Friday – and Ten Hag has said he anticipates his skipper to start the majority of games.
Raphael Varane may be the outlier among United’s three most recent central defensive recruits after the new United manager once again supported the 29-year-old as his captain and reinforced his role as a first-team regular.
The World Cup champion missed the friendly at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday with yet another minor knock, ending his debut season with the club early due to injury.
When asked if Maguire will be a first-choice player, Ten Hag responded, “I think he is. He has demonstrated this in the past, but he must also demonstrate it now and in the future.
“He has 60 games under his belt for England. I have high expectations for Harry because of how remarkable he is. However, there is also internal competitiveness, and a team like Manchester United needs that. With 11 players, you cannot win.
“We need a squad, especially with the amount of games this season. With the Europa League, Premier League, and World Cup, we need a full roster of top-notch players—not just any players.
When Victor Lindelof replaced Varane in the United defense against Leicester City in April, Maguire was forced to switch back to the left side of the defense where he had been playing.
Ten Hag is sure that the England international can adapt to that style and that he could do so again on the right of the defense, despite the fact that he was caught off guard when Melbourne Victory penetrated United’s high line on Friday night.
“Harry is one of our strong center-halves, in my opinion. Being a right-footed center-half, he can play both the left and right sides of the field “says he.
In his second news conference of United’s preseason tour in Melbourne, Ten Hag reiterated his support for Maguire as captain, saying he had made the decision rather than putting it to a vote among the team. This was another indication of Ten Hag’s apparent authority among the players in this group.
“The captaincy has always been something I decide upon. For me, developing a team is crucial, and I frequently discuss a group of leaders in this regard. The captain is a crucial person, and I’m pleased with him “said he.
Maguire had a terrible season the previous year, and as a result, it is obvious that his confidence has suffered. He hopes that having him as captain and a first-choice defender would help him get back on track.
“It could be beneficial. I will do everything I can to help him. In the end, he will have to handle it alone, and he possesses the skills to do it. He has demonstrated it often in the past, “said he.