Manchester United produced a gutsy away display at Anfield on Sunday in the Premier League as they held Liverpool to a goalless draw.
Fans were fearing a repeat of last season’s performance considering the mounting injury list and the kind of form both teams were in going into the contest.
The result meant United became the first team to not lose at Anfield this season and the first to stop the hosts from scoring.
Varane remains United’s best defender
This was possible thanks to the manager’s decision to go back to basics, like playing a compact midfield where everyone is allotted their position and by starting Raphael Varane at the back.
Erik ten Hag had not started the Frenchman for close to two months before his chance against Bayern Munich and on Sunday, he showed why the team is better off with him at the back.
Raphael Varane’s game by numbers vs. Liverpool:
27/34 passes completed
4/4 aerial duels won
Rock at the back. 🪨 pic.twitter.com/eefQpPPKCg
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 17, 2023
Harry Maguire, Jonny Evans, and Victor Lindelof have taken turns playing in his stead and while they have done a steady job, the World Cup winner remains in a class of his own when fit.
Against Jurgen Klopp’s side, the former Real Madrid superstar made 15 clearances, the second-most in a single Premier League game this season.
He was an absolute rock at the back, winning all the duels he competed in while making three interceptions and blocking two goalbound efforts (stats via Sofascore).
ETH needs to back Varane
Despite intense pressure from the hosts, he managed 57 touches of the ball, while completing 27 out of 34 passes as well as a long ball.
Even when playing on the left-hand side of the defence, Varane remained resolute and this shows how much of a folly it will be if the defender is allowed to leave in January.
Ten Hag needs to play the former French international more often if fit even if the other centre-backs return from injury.
United have missed the combination of Varane and Lisandro Martinez this season, a partnership that served the club well in the manager’s debut season.