Is Raphael Varane the Answer?
Manchester United have completed a second piece of fantastic business this summer. Raphael Varane is officially a United player, pending a medical. The former Real Madrid defender brings with him a pedigree and trophy cabinet that has seriously been lacking at United. With his acquisition, it is hard not to have high expectations for this season.
Varane is so much more then a defender to United. He is a potential solution to a slew of issues that have plagued the Red Devils for several seasons.
Manchester United’s Defensive Frailties
Since the departures of Vidic and Ferdinand, Manchester United have lacked so much in their back line. Defensive consistency, recovery pace, experience winning trophies, the ability to play out of the back, set piece savvy, take your pick. Luckily for us Varane is not just great at, but world class at all of these traits.
Alongside Harry Maguire, Varane elevates our defense to an elite status. Combined with Shaw and AWB, I would argue we have the best starting defense in the Premier League.
Credit to Lindelof and Bailly. They helped us to one our best performances defensively, last season in more then a decade. Nonetheless, Bailly is too injury prone to rely one. While United legend, Gary Neville, said it best regarding Lindelof. “Lindelof’s problem is Maguire and Maguire’s problem is Lindelof”. Irrespective of their individual abilities, Neville’s point is they are too similar to succeed as a partnership.
On the bright side, this implies that Lindelof would be a good deputy for Maguire. He could easily thrive along side Varane when rotation is necessary. The reverse is also true for Bailly and Varane, who have similar physical skills.
The Premier League Competition
Sure, as a United fan, I may be a little bias, but hear me out.
Manchester Shitty has been putting up the best numbers defensively speaking, for the last few seasons. However, I would argue that after losing Kompany, Dias is the only player in their defense that is elite. Moreover, Dias has only been on our radar for a single season.
Sure, City have won a bunch of trophies in the last five years. However, that success is largely down to the undeniable genius of Pep, not defensive greatness. Otherwise City wouldn’t have bought 17…count them…17 defenders over the last four seasons.
Kyle Walker is an almost famous full back who is known for his shitthousery. Stones is a one season wonder, with a history of subpar performances. What’s left at city are a few above average fullbacks in Zinchenko and Cancelo and a host of never was’ in Ake, Laporte and Mendy.
Liverpool, admittedly have Van Dijk, Robertson and Alexander-Arnold. But, Gomes has yet to prove himself at the elite level and they have no depth to their back line. If you need proof of that, simply consider Liverpool’s performances last season after VVD picked up an injury. Liverpool’s defensive solidity is far to reliant on VVD.
Chelsea may have won the champions league and, Rudiger may have had a decent Euro Cup. But there isn’t a single defender for Chelsea that would make United’s first team, full stop.
How United’s Defense Stacks Up With Varane
If that isn’t enough consider the following:
We now have Raphael Varane who has won 18 domestic trophies, including four champions leagues. He has won the world cup with France. And perhaps most impressively he is a Knight of the Legion of Honour, France’s highest order of merit (established by Napoleon himself). This man alone has more honours than ALL of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester Shitty’s defenders combined.
Maguire played for England at the World cup finishing third, and the European cup finishing runners up. He’s also been named in three PFA teams of the season. Maguire is undoubtedly the best and most consistent British center back since Rio Ferdinand.
Luke Shaw has developed into the best left back in the world in my opinion. He tied for first place across all topflight leagues last season in assists from a left back position. Shaw created more key passes then any another left back in Europe in 2021. He was also one of England’s best performers at the Euro this summer. All that after a horrific broken leg and having to endure the relentless dogging of Jose Mourhino.
AWB is the only player in our back line whose status is solely built on the reputation that precedes him. However, compared Alexander-Arnold and Robertson (Liverpool), James and Chilwell (Chelsea), Shaw, Digne (Everton), Alba (Barcalona), Tierney (Arsenal), Mendy (Real Madrid), Hernandez (AC Milan), Walker, Cancelo and Zinchenko (Manchester City) and Alphonso Davis (Bayern Munich), AWB holds his own.
Last season, he had more tackle attempts, more successful tackles, more interceptions, more blocks, more clearances , fewer errors leading to a goal and has been dribbled past fewer times per game then all of these players.
Do I really need to defend our defense anymore!?
Wisdom and Rotation
Varane’s football IQ is exceptional. His skills as a footballer wont be the only asset he brings to Old Trafford. His wisdom and experience are just as valuable on and off the pitch as his physical abilities. He will bring more calm, reliability and consistency to our backline, provided he can stay fit. He also allows us to rotate more at the back to keep players fresh.
Maguire has been a beast, but his injury at the end of last season proved he isn’t unbreakable. Varane allows us to play a back line that is still formidable without having to rely on Maguire. Slabhead was forced to play more minutes over the last two seasons than any other footballer in the world. All because we can’t trust Bailly, Lindelof, and Tuanzebe to play together. This changes the second Varane arrives at Carrington.
Raphael Varane: An Attractive Prospect
The last and perhaps most important asset Varane brings to United is his influence. Sure, he will have a great influence in the dressing room, but that just scratches the surface. His presence at United signals the rising expectations and elite standard United require. His presence encourages potential future elite signings and signals that United mean business.
Not only does his presence attract players of a higher caliber, but it might be the ace up our sleeve when it comes to convincing Pogba to stay at United.
The French Connection
I haven’t made light of my distain for Pogba on this blog. However, there is no denying that on his day he is one of the best midfielders in the world. In spite of my personal feelings towards Pogba, he is a player you’d rather play for you then against you.
We can only hope that Varane’s arrival might sway Pogba to stay. The French connection and their well-established friendship may be just the motivation Pogba needs to put pen to paper at Old Trafford.
Paul has not been shy about his feelings towards a new contract with the Red Devils. United simply hasn’t performed at a high enough level. This has left Pogba missing out on the trophies and accolades he wants to win. Considering Pogba’s next contract is likely to be the last major deal of his career, it is no surprise he has contemplated leaving.
However, if Pogba feels United are now in a position to compete at the highest level I am certain he would rather stay and finish what he started at United. Signing Varane and Sancho is the signal of intent I think he has been looking for. If he and Varane can kindle their relationship more, that might just be enough to persuade Pogba to stay.
A New Season, A Clean Slate for United
Obviously, this is all conjecture and reading between the lines. But, if all the puzzle pieces fall into place, we could be in for a real treat this season. Raphael Varane could prove the be the most important signing United have made since Sir Alex retired, other then Bruno.
I for one, can’t wait to see how United perform with Varane in the mix. With the addition of Sancho and Varane, United are creating a solid core of young talented players. This season can easily be the start of something amazing at United. Manchester United has finally begun to wash away some of the stigma of past poor transfer dealings. The slate is clean for Ole this season and the stakes have never been higher for him or United.
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