Raphael Varane’s injury could not have been worse for Manchester United.
The defender suffered a groin problem while playing for France in Sunday’s League of Nations final and is expected to be sidelined for “a few weeks”, according to club officials.
His inaction is exacerbated by the fact that Harry Maguire is still a notable player after suffering an injury in last month’s defeat to Aston Villa.
United are at the peak of difficult matches, with Leicester City, Atalanta and rivals Liverpool in the next three matches.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will hope that Maguire will not be far from returning to fitness, although a trip to the former club Leicester City this weekend seems to be coming to him very soon, putting United boss in a dilemma.
Despite a fairly solid defensive record, the defense was considered one of United’s weakest areas last season, with no player proving to be an adequate partner for center-back Harry Maguire. For this reason, the club has made it a priority to find a suitable update this summer.
Although they have achieved their goal of providing services to Varane, Solskjaer will now have to return to players such as Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly, both of whom are considered below the standard United required last season.
Of course, each is a strong enough defender in their own right, but they have performed significantly lower than Maguire did last season.
For example, an England international had a 77.5 air duel success rate, and neither Lindelof nor Bailly averaged more than 65 percent.
This helped them to be more easily exposed within the United Defense, and the same thing could be repeated, especially given the quality of the opposition on the horizon, without the support of Maguire next to it.
As a result, Solsjaker may face a desire to correct the structure of the team and rarely form a trio from behind.
Such combinations are popular all over the world, Thomas Tuchel is perhaps the most recent general attention at Chelsea. Still, Solskjaer tends to be very tough, rarely going beyond 4-2-3-1.
However, a narrower defense structure with the additional support of another defender can hide some of the weaknesses of the above players.
We see three of the current defenders, most likely Luke Shaw, Lindelof and Bailly. However, the use of midfielder Scott McTominay in defense should not be out of the question.
The 24-year-old, along with Scotland, is in a group of trio and plays this role quite well. He is a good fighter and is strong in duels both on the ground and in the air.
In addition, as a midfielder in trade, he also has something that is the key to United’s game, which often starts in the back line.
If Solskjaer chooses a three-man defense for the above reasons, McTominay’s role could be a better candidate than Bailly’s, given that the Ivory Coast player hasn’t played a minute yet. The game the league has played for United so far this season.
United have better power across the midfield, meaning McTominay has enough cover to absorb a potential position change.
While United’s number 39 doesn’t sound like it often, it could be the key to any success in adapting the team’s structure to deal with the lack of key defenders in these crucial weeks.