Harry Maguire is back in contention for Manchester United after injury and may get the game time to be match fit for the World Cup because of Raphaël Varane’s hamstring problem.
Varane will be out at least until the start of the tournament that begins on 20 November, leaving Maguire to compete with Victor Lindelöf for a place alongside Lisandro Martínez in the centre of the United defence. Maguire has not played since sustaining a thigh injury in England’s draw with Germany in September and had previously lost his United place, with Erik ten Hag preferring to pair Varane with Martínez.
Maguire is back in full training and available for Thursday’s penultimate Europa League group game against Sheriff at Old Trafford. United need to avoid defeat to qualify for the knockout stages.
Ten Hag said: “He always has an important role. He was injured and is happy he is back and now he has to get back into games. It’s always about performance. Regarding his qualities – no problem. He is a great player and has great capabilities to do a job for us.”
The manager was asked whether Maguire’s need for matches before the World Cup in Qatar would influence his thinking. “I understand the interest but we especially look at Manchester United. We have to get the right results and performances,” he said.
Varane may recover and be available for France’s defence of the World Cup. “I think so but we have to wait and see how it develops, how his rehab develops,” said Ten Hag. “He will certainly be out until the World Cup.”
Cristiano Ronaldo is back in the squad after a one-game suspension for refusing to come on during last week’s win over Tottenham and exiting down the Old Trafford tunnel before the final whistle. “I think we said everything and we answered all the questions,” Ten Hag said.” With Anthony Martial still injured, Ronaldo may start.
Ten Hag was asked whether he had money to strengthen in January. “In the background we always continue a process and you see and examine how you can improve and that’s what we will do,” he said.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Donny van de Beek have also returned to full training after injury.