The 28-year-old centre-back moves to Old Trafford after a trophy-laden career with Real Madrid.
There is not much doubt about the fact that Manchester United had a rather disappointing transfer window last summer. However, the club and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have entered the market with all guns blazing this time around. The outfit have already acquired the services of Jadon Sancho, a move that they have longed for. Now Raphael Varane is the club’s latest acquisition.
Many have doubted Man United’s ambition in recent windows. However, they have shown serious intent by not remaining satisfied with just the coup of Sancho and Varane. Players like Eduardo Camavinga, Saul Niguez and Kieran Trippier are also linked to the club. Each of these players have the capacity to improve the first team.
Varane is, however, a crucial addition to the United squad with the Frenchman bringing enough experience to the backline. At Real Madrid, Varane won 18 titles, four of which were Champions League trophies. He has, in fact, won more European trophies than Manchester United. The 28-year-old, who had a year left on his contract, joins United for a 34 million Pounds transfer fee on a four-year deal.
Manchester United boasted quite a good defensive record in the 2019/20 season. The outfit had the second-best defence in the league with only 36 goals conceded. However, they conceded 44 last year. Despite good defensive numbers in the grand scheme of things, a centre-back partner for the impressive Harry Maguire was sighted as an area of improvement. Raphael Varane is a proven defender and for his acquisition, Man United certainly deserves a pat on the back.
Khel Now takes a look at five reasons why Raphael Varane would make a good fit at Manchester United:
5. Performs well alongside a leader
Varane has without a doubt been one of the best defenders over the past decade. A wonderful servant for Real Madrid, he has won three La Liga and four Champions League trophies with the Los Blancos. The Frenchman also has a World Cup title to his name.
However, with the recent decline of Sergio Ramos, the slide in Varane’s own performances has been an interesting spectacle. It is believed that his best performances come while playing alongside a vocal, leading defender – much like Man City’s John Stones in recent times.
This particular narrative caught air after Varane’s error-prone performance against Manchester City in the 2019/20 Champions League quarterfinal, where Ramos was sidelined. The trend was also observed throughout last season, in which Ramos struggled for fitness.
However, in Harry Maguire, Varane will have an extremely able leader alongside him. It is a partnership that has the potential to be the most rock-solid in the league.
4. Varane’s recovery pace a boon for Man United
As time has passed under Solskjaer, United have begun playing more and more with the ball. They have started pressing more and as a result of all that, their defensive line has also become higher. Varane’s recovery pace will be a key asset for United’s high line. Not only does Varane have the pace and quality to deal with runs in behind, but he also has the ability to read and cover horizontal space to cut out passes.
Harry Maguire has made the left centre-back spot his own. In addition, he has also developed a thriving partnership with left-back Luke Shaw. Given the quality of this duo, it has proven to be very hard to break Man United down their right-hand side or make runs in behind them.
It has actually been due to the lack of Victor Lindelof’s pace coupled with Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s occasionally poor positional awareness, that Man United have suffered on the left.
Maguire is a sensational defender. However, pace is not his best quality. Here, Varane would complement the Englishman and the entire backline, given the left and right side dynamic explained above.
3. Possesses ball playing ability that suits United’s build-up from the back
With a possession-based brand of football, comes the need to have defenders who are comfortable on the ball. Maguire’s current partner, Lindelof has a great passing range – especially long. Varane’s ball-playing ability may not necessarily be much better, but the Frenchman is certainly on par.
Both players have made a considerable number of passes while under pressure. Lindelof’s 158 vs Varane’s 153. And Lindelof is more one-footed than Varane, as suggested by his attempted passes.
Despite it being Lindelof’s specialty, Varane has attempted a lot more long balls than the Swede. This suggests that Varane could play the Lindelof role in the build-up and use the pace of United’s wingers well, while Harry Maguire could carry the ball up the pitch and play the shorter passes.
2. United’s set-piece troubles
In the 2020/21 season, Manchester United conceded 14 goals from set-pieces, the second-highest number in the league. Despite Maguire’s aerial prowess, this is certainly an area of concern for Manchester United. Raphael Varane boasts an aerial duel success rate of Maguire’s level.
The Frenchman has won 75.3% of his aerial duels in comparison to Maguire’s 77.5%. Victor Lindelöf is a notch below the duo with a success rate of 65.7%.
Varane is a significant upgrade with respect to defending set-pieces. He may even pitch in with a goal or two, whilst reducing a lot of pressure from Maguire in this regard.
1. An experienced & proven winner
It has been four years since Manchester United won the EFL Cup and Europa League double. They are yet to win a trophy since and that is where all the concerns boil down to. Man United would have hoped that the addition of the experienced Edinson Cavani would have helped instill a winning mentality in the team. However, the team failed to clear the final hurdle once again.
In Raphael Varane, Manchester United have acquired a serial winner and someone who has never lost a major final in his career. It is an astonishing fact, but the Frenchman has never lost a Champions League, Copa del Rey or an international tournament final in his career. In fact, when France lost the Euro 2016 showpiece, the French lucky charm was not on the pitch.
Manchester United have tremendous talent at their disposal, but they still lack proven winners. They have lost four semi-finals under Solskjaer and even a final last season. Varane has the experience of playing when the stakes are high and performing too.
Solskjaer would be hoping that this mentality would rub off on all his players ahead of an exciting season for the Manchester outfit. They have couped yet another sensational player and there is a lot for Man United to be optimistic about.