Raphael Varane’s contribution to Man United’s incredible 4-3 aggregate victory over FC Barcelona tonight was one of the finest displays of defending that has been seen at Old Trafford.
After a 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou, United looked to be struggling at home when the referee awarded a dubious first half penalty to Barcelona after Bruno Fernandes was adjudged to have fouled in the area.
Robert Lewandowski converted the penalty and the Blaugrana looked to be in total control in the first half.
However, half time tactical changes turned the game in United’s favour and goals from two Brazilians, Fred and Antony, who had come on for Wout Weghorst at half time, put them in the driving seat.
United came under immense pressure at the end of the game as Barca looked for an equalizer and Varane was a colossal figure in the defence of the lead.
A last minute block of what looked like a certain goal was the icing on the cake of an already impeccable performance that sees United through to the round of 16 and a real chance of European silverware.
Varane made three clearances, two interceptions and won both of his aerial duels.
He also had 43 touches and achieved a pass accuracy of 79%, which was impressive given the pressure from the Barca press.
Varane also played one key pass and connected with two out of five long balls.
The Frenchman’s experience against quality opposition such as the Blaugrana shone through from the start.
He was a beacon of calm in the heart of United’s defence.
His partnership with Lisandro Martinez is truly world class and is a big reason why Erik ten Hag’s side find themselves still fighting on four fronts this season.
Having clinched this place in the next round of the Europa league, they face Newcastle United at Wembley on Sunday in the Carabao Cup final.
An FA Cup 5th round tie then awaits next Wednesday against West Ham, before the Premier League resumes again, with Varane and his colleagues hoping to close the five-point gap between themselves and leaders, Arsenal.
If Varane can stay fit, he will be a massive asset to the Red Devils on all four fronts.