Lisandro Martinez to return to Manchester United squad against Newcastle

Lisandro Martinez is set to return to the Manchester United squad when under-fire Erik ten Hag’s side take on Newcastle.

The key Argentina centre-back has managed just 11 appearances since breaking his metatarsal last April, compounding the issues facing a Red Devils defence beset by injuries.

Martinez underwent foot surgery for the second time in October having returned for the start of the season, then was laid low by knee and calf injuries upon his return.

The latter issue has kept Martinez out for the past six weeks, but the centre-back is set to lift United by returning to the squad for their final home match of the season.

“Licha Martinez, I think he will return in the squad,” Ten Hag said on the eve of the Newcastle encounter.

“He’s done now some sessions with us, and we plan for him to be available if this afternoon everything goes right in training. He will return in the squad.

“Then for some other players we have to see: (Marcus) Rashford, Bruno (Fernandes), Willy Kambwala, if they are fit enough.”

Martinez’s return is a welcome boost to a depleted backline, with left-backs Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia out along with centre-backs Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Raphael Varane.

The latter confirmed on the eve of the Newcastle match that he is leaving United when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Injuries have restricted Varane to 93 appearances across his three seasons at Old Trafford, with the most recent coming in last month’s last-gasp 4-3 defeat at Chelsea.

Asked if the former France defender and 2018 World Cup winner has played his last match for the club, Ten Hag said: “We are planning, definitely, for the last games.

Raphael Varane will leave Old Trafford at the end of the season (Adam Davy/PA)
Raphael Varane will leave Old Trafford at the end of the season (Adam Davy/PA)

“Not tomorrow but we hope for Sunday and then, of course, for the last game.”

United host Newcastle and bring the curtain down on a wretched Premier League campaign at Brighton, before attempting to end the season on a high in the FA Cup final against rivals Manchester City.

It is a big ask for a side that has already lost 19 matches in all competitions this term, with a club record-equalling nine of those coming on home soil.

Eighth-placed United desperately need a win against Newcastle to lift the mood and keep hopes of European qualification through the league alive.

The sixth-placed Magpies and Chelsea in seventh both sit three points ahead of the Red Devils, who have a far inferior goal difference than both teams and are looking to avoid a third straight defeat.

“It’s clear it’s a very important game,” under-pressure manager Ten Hag said. “Look at the ranking, so it’s very important to get the win.

“We have to put everything in it to get the win and we have to fight hard for it.”

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