Two consecutive top-4 finishes in the Premier League including a second-place finish in the 2020-21 season meant Manchester United fans once again started dreaming about glory in the league. And when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer managed to sign World Cup winning centre-back Raphael Varane from Real Madrid during last year’s summer transfer window, it seemed like United had found the final piece of the puzzle.
Excitement among supporters was but natural considering the pedigree Varane had. Multiple Champions League winner, World Cup winner and a player at the height of his powers. At the age of 28 and for only €40 million, it represented one of United’s best bits of business in the post Sir Alex Ferguson era.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) August 14, 2021
However, the 2021-22 season ended up being the club’s worst in Premier League history with the Red Devils accruing their lowest points tally and conceding the most amount of goals.
While many players failed to perform, the defensive unit as a whole was dismal as the 20-time English champions finished with a goal difference of 0.
The French international will be the first to admit that he did not live up to the hype. Injuries did not help the former Lens player. In total, Varane missed 12 games in the league due to injury while also failing to play three times in the Champions League. It becomes difficult to hit the ground running after a spate of muscle injuries.
When top clubs usually sell one of their stars, there are always underlying reasons behind the move. Manchester United have already faced similar issues in the past when they bought Bastian Schweinsteiger from Bayern Munich thinking it to be a shrewd piece of business.
The wily Florentino Perez might have done the same with the French defender. While there is no arguing that Varane is United’s best centre-back when fit, his injury woes have stopped him from truly showing what he is capable of.
Coupled with Harry Maguire’s dramatic loss of form and Victor Lindelof’s errors, the three-time European champions failed to build a strong defensive pair at any point in the season. The managerial turmoil at Old Trafford did not help matters either.
Ole was shown the door after a disastrous run of results, Michael Carrick was appointed in his stead for a grand duration of three games and eventually Ralf Rangnick assumed the role till the end of the season.
That meant three types of playing styles, none of which suited the Frenchman especially considering this was his debut season in the toughest league in the world.
“Obviously, it’s not the result what we expected but I’m still positive and I think that the next season will be better. I think I need a full pre-season to be fit but I think next season will be better,” United’s French centre-back had said after the Brentford game. Manchester United fans around the world will be hoping Varane reaches the same heights he displayed during his trophy-laden stint in Madrid.
But for now, pre-season might have to wait as the defender is set for more time on the physio table after suffering another hamstring injury while on international duty with France. No wonder new boss Erik Ten Hag is considering multiple defensive targets including Jurrien Timber, Pau Torres and David Carmo.