Eric ten Hag has defended his decision to let Manchester United defender Lisandro Martinez play after the Argentine suffered a knee injury that will keep him out for two months. Martínez was injured in the second half of United's 3-0 win over West Ham last weekend, but Ten Hag's failure to immediately replace the centre-back sparked controversy. When Martínez was initially injured, he received treatment, then continued playing for a while, before getting injured again and finally coming off the bench. The 26-year-old has suffered a ligament tear in his right knee that will force him to miss a significant period of time, but Ten Hag said replacement for the injury could be a “gray area”.
Asked whether doing so aggravated Martínez's injury, which kept him sidelined for a long period of time, Ten Hag told reporters on Thursday: “I don't think so, but it was his decision.
“He was comfortable coming back onto the pitch, but later he tried and then I think stopped in the next attack.
“In some situations it is clear and obvious but there is always a gray area and when you are on the edge it is very difficult to see.
“We have screens and we see it too, and our physicians are there and they are communicating with the player, but it is impossible to assess in a minute or two.
“You need a minimum of 24 hours and sometimes more, so how can you do it in two minutes?”
This was only Martínez's fourth game in charge after a long spell out due to a recurrence of a foot problem, with United winning three of those matches and drawing one.
“Of course it's a big blow. Lecha was coming back, when he's playing you see his contribution to the team, not only the technical skills but also the mentality,” Ten Hag said.
“He's very disappointed about it but he's a fighter. He'll come back stronger and we think he'll be back by the end of the season.
“As a team, we have to replace them and we have a lot of good players at that position who can play there.”
Raphael Varane replaces Martinez, while Victor Lindelof and Jonny Evans are also options for Ten Hag in Sunday's trip to Aston Villa.
Beating fourth-placed Villa would be a huge boost to United's hopes of qualifying for the Champions League.
They are eight points behind Villa, but Unai Emery's side have won only one of their last five games and were knocked out of the FA Cup by Chelsea on Wednesday.
“I have told the team since the beginning of January that every game now is a final,” Ten Hag said.
“We had the same approach to West Ham. We were one point behind them but it is the final, we have to take this challenge, we have to treat it as a final. It will be every game from now on so we are already In that mood.”
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