Its difficult to decipher what and where Manchester United need to improve upon, with this summers spending. Nemanja Matić is now well past his best, making the recruitment of an elected level holding midfielder logical. There was also the right wing dilemma, and who best to occupy that spot. With neither Marcus Rashford or Mason Greenwood ideally suited there, Jadon Sancho was signed for a huge fee, and the attack looks well stocked. At right back there is continuing questions over what Aaron Wan-Bissaka offers in the final third, and those questions have led to Kieran Tripper being linked from Atletico Madrid. The goalkeeper situation is somewhat strange, with neither David De Gea nor Dean Henderson really established as this seasons clear number one, so there has to be questions there also.
That leaves the centre of defence, an ongoing issue of who to best partner their record defensive signing, Harry Maguire. With Maguire, there has always seemed to be that notion that he needed the right partner. One would expect that with such a massive fee paid, he would surely any average partner more that good enough. Neither Victor Lindelöf or Eric Bailly are trusted first team started, and Phil Jones is more a meme than and actual player nowadays. So United decided the time was right to enhance their backline and Raphaël Varane seems to be the man on the move.
At 28 years of age, Raphaël Varane still has years at the highest level ahead of him. The issues surrounding Real Madrid’s finances made the move fairly simple in the end, with the fee set to reach £42 million. That sum of money (roughly half of which took Maguire from Leicester), is sound business for a potentially elite and vastly experienced defender. United have struggled to deliver major trophies since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, and the need for winners would have been a big plus in Varane being targeted. Last season saw Edison Cavani signed, and with Varane also aboard, they have added experienced serial winners to the ranks, which could be the missing ingredient.
Manchester United have a squad to match Manchester City, Liverpool & Chelsea this year, and this group of four are the likely candidates for the title. With all four looking to be active this summer, Ole Gunnar Solskjær has certainly made waves with his business thus far. The signing of Varane may point to a slightly higher line, with United looking to overwhelm teams. Varane, though no longer as swift as when he was younger, still offers decent recovery pace, and a pedigree to sweep in behind a front footed Maguire. With Maguire far more comfortable in a lower block, this added assurance and ability may well click immediately. With Maguire excelling in aerial duals and penalty boxing defending, it certainly pointed to the need for another defender, with the quick Bailly now injury prone.
Raphaël Varane has spent the better part of his career next to either Portugal’s Pepe or the notorious Spaniard, Sergio Ramos. The dominant nature of both would perhaps see French international Varane as the foil, with leadership and organizing sitting with the more dominant partner. This should suit both Maguire & Varane, with Harry very vocal as club captain, and in commanding his back line. This season sees United’s backline set to be made of both England’s & France’s key defenders, and given this, there is little not to like about the deal.
Whether or not United choose to recruit Trippier is not as important as the holding midfield role, if United are to continue spending. At Madrid, Varane carried out his duties with a world class holding midfielder operating ahead of him. To understate the importance of this would be naive, as Casemiro is still perhaps the leading player in his position. With McFred (Fred & McTominay) looking likely to start in midfield, this may cause issue with Varane’s bedding in. Taking away that brilliant shield can expose all sorts in a new league, and Manchester United will need to be solid throughout to compete at the seasons end. The experience that Raphaël possesses will surely see him succeed, but to overlook his midfield, may leave Ole a little more open than Varane is accustomed to.
This season is very much make or break for Ole, with so much money spent, and it’s time to deliver that major trophy. In Raphaël Varane he has recruited a classy defender from a huge European rival, but whether or not he can adapt from the off, is still up for debate.