Manchester United secured back-to-back Premier League clean sheets for the first time this season in beating Leicester City 1-0 on Thursday night.
The Red Devils had a torrid start to the campaign, conceding six goals in their opening two matches and sat bottom of the table, despite adding highly-sought after centre-back Lisandro Martinez to their ranks over the summer. Martinez struggled against Brighton and Brentford, and the Argentine was already being mocked by away fans for his height (or lack of it for a centre-back).
But ahead of Man Utd’s game against Liverpool, Erik ten Hag made a switch in his defence, dropping Harry Maguire and pairing Martinez with Raphael Varane. And by George it’s worked wonders.
In their first game as a centre-back pairing Varane x Martinez may still have conceded against Liverpool but Man Utd looked a lot more secure and beat their rivals 2-1 for their first victory of the season. The next match brought Man Utd’s second win and first clean sheet, as the Red Devils beat Southampton 1-0, growing in confidence defensively.
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While there were still some struggles in attack, Ten Hag was starting to receive praise for his decision to drop captain Maguire and build the Varane x Martinez partnership. And it was the same case on Thursday as, despite underwhelming in attack, Man Utd did enough to secure the win over Leicester and – with Varane x Martinez at the back – there was another clean sheet.
Between them, Varane and Martinez made six clearances at the King Power on Thursday night (three each), having combined for 14 against Southampton at the weekend. Then, it was Martinez leading the way with eight clearances to Varane’s six, while against Liverpool Varane had eight to Martinez’s seven. But it is not about one centre-back outperforming the other, it’s about what they can do together. And what they can do together is prevent goals.
Man Utd fans are no strangers to great centre-back partnerships and some are already comparing Varane x Martinez to Rio Ferdinand x Nemanja Vidic, and even Steve Bruce x Gary Palliser.
Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez both compliment and understand each other so well. Playing like they've been playing together for years.
Loving this Man Utd's new CB partnership 🔥
— UtdFaithfuls (@UtdFaithfuls) September 1, 2022
Varane and Martinez compliment each other in the same way Vidic and Rio did.
— Crumps M8 (@Crumps_M8) September 1, 2022
Vidic x Ferdinand vibes
— James 🏴🇺🇦🇵🇸 (@JamesUTD10_) September 1, 2022
— Ryan, TEN HAG MUFC 🇾🇪 (@TenHagWay) September 1, 2022
Lisandro Martinez y Rafita Varane ❤️
— Liche Bacca Maximoff (@44LizzetteP) September 1, 2022
— Mo7amed #14 🇵🇸 (@Mo7amed0992) September 1, 2022
Vidic & Ferdinand esque..
— Sam Gauri ⍟ (@SamGauri5) September 1, 2022
Ferdinand himself said on BT Sport: “The back four, there seems a togetherness. Any good team that I played in, it was almost like we’re our own unit, we keep clean sheets.
“They go and do what they’re doing, the midfielders and forwards, but us together we keep our house in check. And it seems like they’re starting to build something there between them and that is vitally important for any good team.”