Manchester United fans are understandably delighted with the imminent arrival of Raphael Varane from Real Madrid, although the club would not have needed to spend £ 43million on the defender if Sir Alex Ferguson had been successful in luring the Frenchman at Old Trafford ten years ago.
A young Varane was starting to gain people’s attention during his first campaign with Lens in 2010/11, including that of then-French United scout David Friio, who has become a regular in the last few months of the player at the Bollaert-Delelis stadium.
Varane, who just turned 18, may not have been able to save Lens from relegation from Ligue 1 that season, but that didn’t bother Ferguson, who got to know a future world star when he did. saw one.
Unfortunately for the Scotsman, he wasn’t the only one watching Varane and with the United manager en route to northern France to sign the center-back, Real Madrid’s new special adviser learned of the encounter and is quickly intervened.
A phone call from Zinedine Zidane was all he needed to get Varane to end up in Madrid, not Manchester that summer, with United instead buying Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers for £ 16.5million.
In 10 trophy-filled seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu, Varane formed a formidable partnership at the back with Real captain Sergio Ramos, ultimately ending Pepe’s career at the club in 2017.
Varane worked with Jose Mourinho in his first two seasons in the Spanish capital, developing his defensive game under the Portuguese, who was then at the peak of his abilities, as Real prevented Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona from claiming a fourth consecutive title in La Liga in its early days. campaign in Spain.
Mourinho has coached some of the best center-backs in the world over the past 20 years, so it says something when he puts Varane at the top of that list.
“Varane is the best central defender in the world. He’s still young, but I think he’s the best. Already, yes. I think he’s the best defender, ”he said a year after leaving Real, which is probably why he was so keen to make him his first signing as United boss at the summer 2016.
However, unlike in 2011, Mourinho couldn’t persuade Varane to team up with him as United once again missed the signing of the France international.
Varane’s career at Real Madrid in figures (2011-2021):
|Games played (in all compositions)||360|
It turned out to be a good move as Varane racked up more than 350 appearances for Real, winning 18 major honors in the process, including four Champions League titles and three La Liga titles.
So this is the kind of pedigree United bring to Old Trafford – someone who not only knows how to win, but also expects it.
Not just with Madrid either, but also with France, with whom he became world champion in 2018. In Russia, Varane played a key role off the pitch with his leadership qualities in the locker room as well as on the pitch. ci, where he played every minute of their winning campaign as he joined a group of players selected to have won the European Cup / Champions League and the World Cup in the same year.
Now is a third chance for United, who, a decade after trying to get him to Old Trafford, have finally found their man.
Varane – at 28, the ideal age for a defender – could prove to be the missing piece of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s United puzzle.
Man Utd are buying one of the best center-backs in Europe. He’s been fantastic at Real since day one, he has all the attributes you need and in terms of quality I don’t think there is much better than Varane.
The graceful Frenchman is as close to the full center-back as you’ll find him in European football right now – fast paced, calm under pressure, composed on the ball, strong in the air and a good organizer and leader at the back who reads too. the game well.
While it is true that Varane hasn’t always attracted the attention Ramos sometimes gets at the Bernabeu, as Spain’s football expert Terry Gibson says, that shouldn’t mask the quality of central-back United.
‘Man Utd buy one of the best center-backs in Europe,’ he said Sky Sports News.
“He’s been fantastic at Real since day one, he has all the attributes you need and he’s been slightly overlooked because of Sergio Ramos.
“But in terms of quality, I don’t think there is much better than Varane. «
Varane will line up alongside Harry Maguire at the heart of United’s defense next season in a partnership that should complement the two perfectly, while also meaning a watch briefing from the bench for Victor Lindelof, who has struggled to win the supporters since. his arrival at the club in 2017.
With Atletico Madrid right-back Kieran Trippier also reportedly on the road this summer, and England teammate Luke Shaw left-back, United’s defense could suddenly take on an imposing appearance.
Certainly, if Solskjaer is to make that jump from second to first in the Premier League, then a better defensive performance is essential next season.
That’s because last time around United conceded 44 league goals – the most of the top four and even more than Liverpool, who struggled terribly from behind. United scored 14 goals from set pieces – goals that had an expected counter count of just 8.9.
Solskjaer clearly recognized this susceptibility of free kicks and corners, observing recently: “In big games against good players and good teams, we lose that little bit of focus. It’s a big part of football – so many goals are conceded on set pieces.
“We have a good record of winning the first ball, but when we don’t it seems like it fits every time. «
The arrival of the 6-foot-3 in Varane, however, will mean goals like winning Villarreal’s header from a free-kick in last season’s Europa League final should now hopefully be a thing of the past. at United.
That could ultimately turn out to be the difference between first place and a second place next season for Solskjaer’s side, which would have been worth the wait a decade for the French defender.
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