Manchester United had a dismal season in which they broke all the wrong sorts of records – including conceding the most number of goals and accruing the least number of points. The entire team under-performed with the majority of the blame put on the defensive unit. Coming off the back of a top two finish and with the addition of World Cup winning defender Raphael Varane, such a dismal campaign was not expected.
However, former United legend Rio Ferdinand has defended the former Real Madrid man and said that the chaotic atmosphere at the Old Trafford club hampered the French international’s performance which in turn led to an underwhelming campaign for Varane.
The French centre-back lifted three La Liga titles and four Champions League trophies during his time at Madrid. According to Rio, the Lens youth product benefited immensely from the continuous cycle of success and drive to win at Madrid whereas at the Red Devils, the atmosphere was completely the opposite.
“He went from one team – the honours there tell you it was a functioning team at the top level, all players playing to their maximum consistently – and went into an absolute reverse situation where the team has zero functionality, no confidence, no guidance and no structure of where they’re going,” the former defender opined on his Vibe with Five YouTube channel.
One would find it tough to argue with that statement. Los Blancos are used to winning and anybody who is not attuned to that philosophy – be it a player or manager – is swiftly shown the door.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 25, 2022
The same mentality was an ever-present aspect of United teams under Sir Alex Ferguson, something Rio would attest to. Since the Scot’s retirement, success has been hard to come by with players more than happy to grab a fat paycheck with winning trophies taking a backseat.
Varane will come good
The managerial turmoil at United, his defensive partners being woeful and Varane’s own injury record did not help matters.
In his debut season in the toughest league in the world, a clearly defined philosophy would have helped the French international to settle into life at his new club.
Instead, three managers – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Michael Carrick and Ralf Rangnick – all manned the touchline during the course of the season, each with their own idea of how to play.
Acclimatizing to life as a Premier League player is hard, anybody can attest to that. But playing for a well-oiled machine helps ease that process. But with Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof both struggling, Varane’s adaptation issues came to the forefront much more.
A spate of muscle injuries meant Varane missed 12 league games and three Champions League ties, not really helping him build momentum.
“He went into an alien scenario where he’s going, ‘I have not seen this since youth team football’. To go from that world-class operating and culture and standard on a daily basis to what is at Manchester United is a huge, huge shift.
“He’s probably sitting there like a rabbit in the headlights thinking ‘Wow, what is this?’. He hasn’t been the player we expected… he would tell you that, he couldn’t tell you anything else. He’ll be saying ‘I’ve got to up the levels next year. I need help’,” Rio added.
And help and guidance is set to arrive in the form of new manager Erik ten Hag, who is known for getting the best out of players. With a proper pre-season, fans including Rio are hopeful that he can showcase his full potential at the Theatre of Dreams.