Manchester United faced a devastating blow in their Europa League quarterfinal first leg against Sevilla on April 13th, as they drew 2-2 at Old Trafford. The Red Devils took an early 2-0 lead and looked to be cruising to victory, but Sevilla managed to stage a late comeback and snatch a level scoreline before heading back home for the second leg. The final result was a crushing blow for United, but it was made even worse as they lost both key central defenders to injury during the match. French international Raphael Varane was withdrawn at halftime, and his center-back partner Lisandro Martinez suffered what appeared to be a serious foot injury late in the match. After Martinez was brought off, United could not replace him as they had used all their substitutions, forced to finish the match against 10 men amid waves of Sevilla pressure.
Ultimately, Varane’s replacement Harry Maguire would deflect the devastating final goal into his own net, and the Sevilla comeback for the 2-2 draw was complete. While United hope to engineer a winning result in Spain in a week, the thoughts also turn to Martinez’s health and the prospects of his absence for a significant time. The next day, it was confirmed that Martinez had suffered a fifth metatarsal fracture, with The Athletic reporting that it will rule him out for the rest of the season. The player was visibly distraught, holding his face in his hands as if he knew the injury was severe. Despite the disappointment, there was a touching moment of on-field unity as Martinez’s international teammates Gonzalo Montiel and Marcos Acuna, who both play for Sevilla, helped carry the Man United defender off the pitch while the Old Trafford ground chanted “Argentina! Argentina!”. The club eventually confirmed the news, stating that “the Argentinian defender is expected to make a full recovery in time to be ready for the start of next season.” While United will have to navigate the remainder of the Europa League campaign without Martinez, they will hope to use the incident as a rallying cry for the team, as they look to secure the trophy that has eluded them since 2017