Regardless of the result on Sunday, Manchester United fans can rest assured in the knowledge that a World Cup medal will be returning to Old Trafford.
A privilege not many clubs are assured of, United will be represented on either divide of the high-stakes affair on Sunday.
With the entire sporting world training its sights on the superstar matchup between Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe, United fans’ primary focus will be on a lesser but still significant mini-battle that could determine the final outcome of the game – Lisandro Martinez vs. Raphael Varane.
Lisandro Martinez has been a mainstay in Argentina’s backline throughout the World Cup, as has his United centre-back partner Raphael Varane for France.
The two defenders and close accomplices in a United shirt will come up against each other on Sunday for the World Cup final in what is guaranteed to be a thrilling end to a brilliant tournament highlighted by spins, storylines and numerous plot twists.
Should Varane be deemed fit enough to start, his place in the starting XI is secure. Yesterday reports from France indicated that the four-time Champions League winner is facing a race against time to be available for selection after contracting a virus.
The only variable will be who plays alongside Varane. From the group stages until the semis where Les Bleus knocked out a defensively stubborn Morocco side, Didier Deschamps has chopped and changed the centre-back pairing in every game, with the United man being the only constant.
Dayot Upamecano has been slotted next to Varane and more recently, Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konate.
Despite these changes, Varane’s class has shone through, barely putting a foot wrong throughout the competition. The player’s defensive aptness has been instrumental in mentoring a relatively young backline also consisting of the likes of Jules Kounde and Theo Hernandez.
Deschamps will undoubtedly be hoping with bated breath that his tried and trusted lieutenant will be fit in time for Sunday.
Martinez starting on the other hand is contingent on which formation Lionel Scaloni resorts to. In the event that the Albiceleste boss restores his favoured back-five, Martinez, on the evidence available so far, is likely to start.
In a back-four system, Scaloni will probably look to Nicolas Otamendi and Tottenham’s Cristian Romero to shore up the defence before bringing on United’s butcher as a reinforcement super substitution.
Whenever Martinez has been called on to execute this responsibility, he has excelled at it to great effect. No doubt Scaloni will be aware of such a weapon in his armoury and should it become necessary, will not pass up the chance to deploy it.
Both Varane and Martinez have a golden opportunity to join an illustrious list of United players to have won the World Cup down the years which includes Sir Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles, John Connelly and Paul Pogba.
A section of United fans will argue that Martinez deserves to lift football’s most coveted trophy more than Varane, on account of the fact that the Frenchman already won one in 2018. Varane himself will however be relishing the chance to become the first individual in football history to win four Champions Leagues and two World Cups.
Data and statistics are heavily in favour of the former Real Madrid ace to emerge victorious and get one over his United ally.
Varane has won 15 out of the 17 finals he has featured in, mustering an impressive 88% success rate. The 29-year-old’s only defeats came in the Spanish Super Cup 2014 and UEFA Super Cup 2018.
The only saving grace for Martinez in this regard is that the last time Varane lost a final, the referee who presided over the game was Szymon Marciniak. As fate would have it, Marciniak will be the referee for Sunday’s game.
What’s for certain is that whoever between the United duo comes out triumphant will be a worthy victor well worth their salt and deserving of the title of World Champion.