Erik ten Hag reveals vital double defensive boost for Manchester United ahead of Chelsea trip

Erik Ten Hag has revealed that defensive duo Raphael Varane and Jonny Evans are likely to be available for Manchester United’s visit to Chelsea on Thursday.

The news is a huge boost for United’s injury-ravaged backline. Centre-backs Victor Lindelof and Lisandro Martinez are both out for at least a month, while Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia are both long-term absentees fighting to play again this season.

It appeared as though Ten Hag may have no option but to hand 19-year-old centre-back Willy Kambala just his second Premier League start against Chelsea, but the Dutch manager has confirmed the availability of Varane and Evans.

“In the frontline and midfield we are okay and we have options there,” Ten Hag told reporters on Wednesday.

“In the backline we have a lack of options, but the good thing is [that] back in training this afternoon are Raphael Varane and Jonny Evans. Yesterday, Harry Maguire was back in training.”

Ten Hag blamed the ceaseless Premier League calendar for his side’s ongoing injury woes.

He stated: “You can't prevent [injuries], it's not only us who've had this, the standards of the Premier League from an intensity perspective are so high, the overload of the schedule, international football is so huge, we have internationals in our squad.”

United return to west London, where they were lucky to grab a point against Brentford on Saturday, to face Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea.

Thursday’s encounter also sees Mason Mount return to his former club for the first time. The England midfielder, who moved up north for £55million last summer, scored his first goal for United against Brentford.

Ten Hag suggested that a starting berth in this match is unlikely for the ex-Chelsea man.

“The first objective is to keep him fit,” he said. “Then he can benefit and contribute to the team like he did on Saturday when he had a big impact."

A win in London will increase Ten Hag’s slim hopes of Champions League qualification, and take the Red Devils to within six points of fifth-placed Tottenham.