Manchester United head coach Erik ten Hag has said that he ‘did not want to take a risk’ with Raphael Varane during Sunday’s Manchester derby with Manchester City.
The France international picked up a problem in the first half of the clash at Etihad Stadium and was eventually withdrawn in the 40th minute, having been unable to shake off the issue.
Varane was replaced when Man United were 3-0 behind, while Phil Foden added a fourth for Man City just before the interval to all but secure the points in the first half.
Victor Lindelof was introduced for Varane, but the 29-year-old did not go down the tunnel for treatment.
Ten Hag has played down suggestions that the centre-back would have been able to carry on had the score been closer, but the Dutchman admitted that he was not prepared to “take a risk” for the World Cup winner to pick up “a bigger injury”.
Varane has been a key player for the Red Devils this season, making seven appearances in all competitions, including six outings in the Premier League.
The Frenchman’s partnership with Lisandro Martinez in the middle of the defence had been key to Man United recording four straight league wins over Liverpool, Southampton, Leicester City and Arsenal, but the 20-time English champions suffered a 6-3 loss to Man City at the weekend.
“I don’t think so, that he would have carried on [if the score would have been closer],” Ten Hag told reporters when questioned on the change during his post-match press conference.
“But you get him off because when you are 4-0 down, you don’t want to take a risk to get a bigger injury. But I think it’s that big, the injury, that he couldn’t carry on.”
Varane’s fitness will now need to be assessed ahead of Thursday’s Europa League contest with Omonia in Cyprus, while the team are back in league action against Everton next weekend.
After the Manchester derby, Ten Hag criticised his players for their application against the Citizens, insisting that his side “could have been on the front foot”.
“I will show the team tomorrow that we could have been on the front foot. When you see the first goal, we win the ball and in the moment of winning the ball, we could have created a great chance,” he told reporters.
“But then we take the wrong decisions in transition on the left side and all of a sudden we don’t follow the rules, we’re undisciplined and we’re 1-0 down. That cannot happen and it is unacceptable. I will show the team that I am sure that they can do that better.
“I think it’s good that a team like City gives you the status where you are in this moment. It’s clear we did well against top teams like Liverpool and Arsenal, when we were disciplined and we followed the rules and principles, we had belief to play and we were on the front foot defending.
“Then you can bring a good performance and that can bring a result. When you don’t, when you are not front foot, when you are not brave to play, you get the result as today.”
Club captain Harry Maguire was ruled out of Sunday’s game due to a hamstring problem, so Lindelof could feature alongside Martinez against Omonia on Thursday, should Varane fail to overcome his issue in time for the European contest.