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Revealed: Why Lisandro Martinez and Raphael Varane are missing for Manchester United vs Leeds United

The Red Devils face Leeds without their first choice defenders

Manchester United travel to Elland Road to take on Leeds United for the second time in four days this afternoon, but have named an odd XI to do so.

The Red Devils fought back from two goals down at Old Trafford in the first game between the two traditional rivals, though managerless Leeds will have been the happier of the two with their point from the clash.

And they meet again, this time in Yorkshire, with Manchester United having been handed a golden chance to strengthen their grip on the top 4 after a defeat for Tottenham and a draw for Newcastle on Saturday, meaning that they can move 7 points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham with a win. They can even (albeit perhaps briefly) move above rivals Manchester City, who sit two points ahead of the Red Devils and play later in the day, handing a massive incentive to Ten Hag’s side.

But there was a massive surprise sprung by Erik ten Hag when the lineups were announced, with neither of his first choice centre-backs Raphael Varane or Lisandro Martinez named among the starting XI.

Instead, it was an all English duo, with Luke Shaw partnering Harry Maguire at the heart of the United defence.

Both Varane and Martinez were fit enough to make the substitutes bench, with Varane rested for the midweek Europa League round of 32 clash with FC Barcelona.

With Martinez suspended for Thursday’s trip to Camp Nou, Shaw’s return to the side could be a sign of Ten Hag’s plan for his clash with Xavi, with the left-back having filled in at centre-back already on several occasions this season.

And Ten Hag added that “Rotation is part of it. I have a lot of games to cover. The World Cup, now a lot of games after each other, but the other part is also tactics.”

“They [Maguire and Shaw] know each other, they also know the game and the rivalry. Leeds and United, so they have to project that on the whole team, so I expect leadership from them today definitely”.

Maguire, meanwhile, has started just once in the Premier League since October, and has managed just 118 Premier League minutes since returning from the World Cup.

Elsewhere, Antony remained absent through illness, while Christian Eriksen remains out until early May with an ankle injury. Casemiro is serving the second of his three game ban, but there is a welcome return to the starting XI for Jadon Sancho, who came off the bench to score the equaliser in the midweek reverse fixture.

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Ben Browning

Ben Browning

Football writer and analyst. Long-time writer of all things Arsenal and avid watcher of European football. Happy to discuss all things football over on Twitter.

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