HomeFeatured ArticlesUnraveling Varane's Role in Ten Hag's Man United Squad

Unraveling Varane’s Role in Ten Hag’s Man United Squad

Navigating Manchester United’s Defensive Strategy

In the high-stakes world of football, a player’s reputation and past achievements can often take a back seat when tactical decisions come into play. This seems to be the case with Raphael Varane, Manchester United’s enigmatic centre-back. Varane, a figure who has etched his name into football history with multiple Champions League and La Liga triumphs and a World Cup victory, finds himself in a peculiar situation at Old Trafford. Carl Anka of The Athletic insightfully navigates this scenario, shedding light on why Varane, despite his illustrious pedigree, is not a regular starter under Erik ten Hag’s regime.

Unravelling the Enigma: Varane’s Shift to the Sidelines

Varane’s descent down the pecking order at Manchester United is a topic that merits exploration. His credentials are not in doubt; he is a player often likened to a Rolls-Royce for his elegance and efficiency on the field. Yet, he now frequently occupies a spot on the bench, prompting questions about his role in Ten Hag’s tactical framework.

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Ten Hag’s Tactical Blueprint and Its Impact on Varane

Erik ten Hag’s approach to the game is characterized by a meticulous emphasis on specific player roles and formations. A key aspect of his strategy involves the deployment of a left-footed player at left centre-back, a decision that significantly influences Varane’s playing opportunities. Ten Hag’s preference for a left-footed player in this position stems from his belief that it enhances ball reception and creates better passing angles, essential for building play from the back. “The angles are not good for Harry if he is playing on the left side, it’s difficult for him also defending in wide areas on his left foot, but I think he is more capable on the right,” Ten Hag commented on this preference last season.

As Carl Anka notes, “Ten Hag’s benching of the centre-back is a tactical decision with echoes of Louis van Gaal leaving out Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao in favour of Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini in 2015.” This decision-making process underlines Ten Hag’s commitment to his tactical beliefs, even if it means sidelining high-profile players like Varane.

The Role of Midfield Dynamics in United’s Defensive Set-Up

The midfield’s role in United’s strategy cannot be overstated, especially regarding defensive dynamics. Varane, known for his defensive prowess rather than his ball distribution skills, faces challenges in a system that demands more progressive passing from its centre-backs. “The build-up is not that fluid when one of them (Maguire or Varane) is playing from the left centre-back position,” Ten Hag observed, highlighting the need for more dynamic ball movement from his defenders.

Pathways for Varane’s Return to the Starting XI

Despite the current scenario, there remain avenues for Varane to reclaim a starting position. Ten Hag acknowledges the internal competition and Varane’s past contributions: “I have always been happy with his performance. But at this moment, Harry is playing very well and there is internal competition.” Varane’s defensive attributes, particularly his ability to cover large spaces and defend against crosses, remain valuable assets that could see him reinstated, depending on the team’s evolving needs and tactics.

In conclusion, Raphael Varane’s situation at Manchester United is a fascinating case study in modern football tactics. It’s a testament to Erik ten Hag’s unwavering dedication to his strategic vision, one that sometimes requires tough decisions, even at the expense of benching a world-class player. As the dynamics within United’s squad continue to evolve, it will be intriguing to see how Varane adapts and potentially reasserts himself in this talented team.

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