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Is Raphael Varane fourth choice at Manchester United?

by David O'Neill

Raphael Varane remained in Manchester as his teammates in line to start against Brighton boarded the plane for Oslo today.

While he may be among the players said to be injured or unwell, journalist Samuel Luckhurst has pointed to the Frenchman’s preseason as a “steep fall.”

Harry Maguire has retained the captaincy and is likely to start alongside Erik ten Hag’s £55m signing Lisandro Martinez.

And with Victor Lindelof starting games ahead of Varane on tour, Luckhurst believes the most decorated defender at the club is now the fourth-choice centre half in the squad.

It should be noted that Varane suffered a knock during the Liverpool game in Bangkok which kicked off the tour.

However, once available for selection, he was only restored as a second half substitute against Aston Villa.

It could be argued that, given he has only had 68 minutes of football this summer (excluding the behind-closed-doors affair against Wrexham) it is only natural that he be eased back into the side.

But with availability having been the main concern regarding the World Cup winner last season, pointing to his fitness as an excuse may be missing the point somewhat.

Most managers aim for consistency in selecting their backline and Ten Hag’s history would suggest that he is no different in that respect.

Building a winning team from the back depends upon your defenders regularly being available and Varane has yet to reach a level of fitness that has seen him have a consistent run in the side at his best.

Two-footed and composed, the four-time Champions League winner should be perfect for a Ten Hag side, but he will need to prove his availability before he can challenge the incumbents in his position.

Luckhurst sees Maguire as being “extraordinarily lucky to have retained his captaincy and starting spot” and implies that he may struggle to keep them.

With a player of Varane’s class breathing down his neck, he certainly will not be getting away with last season’s level of performance.

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