Nottingham Forest return to Premier League action at Old Trafford against a Manchester United that may be missing two key pieces of their defence under manager Erik ten Hag.
Manchester United may well be without their key central defensive partnership of Lisandro Martínez and Raphaël Varane against Nottingham Forest when the Premier League resumes due to the player’s extended involvement at the World Cup.
Varane, 29, played the full 90 minutes of France’s quarter-final win against England on Saturday, which secured the defending champions’ place in the semi-finals, where they will face Morocco on Wednesday. Martínez and Argentina sealed their progression to play Croatia in the other semi-final on Friday after overcoming the Netherlands after 120 minutes of action and a subsequent penalty shootout.
By booking their places in the last four, both nations also extended their involvement in the tournament until its final weekend, whatever the result. That is because 24 hours before next Sunday’s (18 December) final the much-maligned third-place playoff will be played between the two losing semi-finalists to determine who receives the set of World Cup bronze medals.
As a result, the earliest that either player’s involvement in the tournament ends will be Saturday (17 December) evening, just ten days before Forest visit Old Trafford on the day after Boxing Day. Whether either will be involved, particularly Varane who missed the first group stage game against Australia after only recently recovering from a hamstring injury suffered while playing for Man United against Chelsea in October, remains to be seen.
If neither are ready to play, then Erik ten Hag may be forced to field Victor Lindelöf, whose Sweden did not qualify for the tournament, and Harry Maguire, who himself will be returning shortly after England’s heartbreaking exit, in defence. The pair have played together more than 100 times for Man Utd, but not together in the Premier League since the final day of last season. The last time the started alongside each other this season they conceded two goals against Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup third round tie at Old Trafford.