Manchester United have confirmed the signing of Raphael Varane, who has arrived from Real Madrid for a reported fee of £42 million, signing a four-year contract with the option of a fifth. The Frenchman arrived at United’s training ground in Carrington on Tuesday to start his medical ahead of the move being completed and it has been suggested that he could feature in the squad to face Leeds United in the opening Premier League match of the season at Old Trafford on Saturday. It is an exciting time for United, who have already signed goalkeeper Tom Heaton and winger Jadon Sancho this summer in a bid to strengthen the squad ahead of a possible title charge during the 2021/22 season which will need to end positively for United and Solskjaer.
Varane, 28, started his football career as a youth in 2000 with Hellemmes, leaving the club in 2002 for Lens, making his first team debut in the 2010/11 season, playing a total of 24 times for the French club, scoring two goals. In the summer of 2011, Sir Alex Ferguson, the then United manager, was interested in signing Varane and ended up signing Phil Jones for £16.5 million from Blackburn Rovers instead and less than ten days later, Varane signed a six-year deal with Real Madrid, which on hindsight, was a better move for him considering Ferguson retired two-years later and United suffered massively under the management of David Moyes, then Louis van Gaal, then Jose Mourinho before Solskjaer arrived at the club.
Varane made 360 appearances for Real Madrid in his ten seasons at the club, scoring 17 goals and seven assists and during his period at the club he won all the major honours he could at the club, winning three La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey trophy, three Supercopa de España trophies, four UEFA Champions League trophies, three UEFA Super Cups and four FIFA Club World Cups – an 18-trophy haul at the Spanish club. Varane is also a regular in the France national team having been capped 79 times for his country, scoring a total of five goals. He also helped his country win the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018, which was a big feat for the country twenty years after winning the tournament for the first time – on home turf in 1998.
Varane is a winner and will want to continue to achieve such things in the challenge that he has accepted. Ten years ago, he would have been a good signing for United but in the same period of time, United have won one Premier League title, one Emirates FA Cup, one Football League Cup, one UEFA Europa League and three FA Community Shields – which is not comparable to what he achieved in Spain. It might have been different is Ferguson had not retired at the end of the 2012/13 season, but I doubt it would have been the same. The right decision was made by the player and he achieved everything he could with his teammates at Real Madrid and now the challenge will be to help get United back to the top, which is the major challenge.
Real Madrid would have preferred to re-sign Varane on a long-term contract but it was a new challenge that he craved. Along with United, there was interest from Premier League rivals Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, who had already signed former Real Madrid teammate Sergio Ramos, who was a free agent this summer. It did not look feasible for the French club to sign Varane based on the players that they had signed this summer, which seems to have ended with a big signing, getting Lionel Messi as a free agent, who left Barcelona at the weekend. But it was suggested that Varane only wanted to sign for United, which makes the so-called fans who continue to moan about the manager look silly as they reckon top players do not want to play for Solskjaer.
That is clearly not the case as both Jadon Sancho and Varane will have signed for the club this summer, both of them exciting talents who will help to improve United going forward. The defence will be much stronger with both Varane and Harry Maguire in the centre of defence and the strength in depth will continue with Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly – providing they all remain fit – giving some quality on the bench as well as on the pitch. With Sancho’s signing, United brought in an experienced winger to play on the right, which has been a problem position for many years at the club, despite the arrivals of both Facundo Pellistri and Amad Diallo, who arrived last summer and in January, respectively.
Varane will be looking ahead to the new challenge that lies in wait at United, playing in the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, Carabao Cup and the Emirates FA Cup. It may take in a while to settle into the team and he may not start immediately, which will depend on his fitness levels. He did upload content onto social media this weekend, an image of him watching the pre-season match against Everton, with United winning 4-0 and a video of his training in the garden in Manchester, after he arrived earlier in the week. There is a chance that his fitness level will be quite high and that he can get started as soon as possible. Speaking to the official Manchester United website about signing for the club, Varane said:
“Manchester United is one of the most iconic clubs in world football and the chance to come here and play in the Premier League is something I couldn’t turn down.
“There is a lot more that I want to achieve in my career and I know I’m joining a squad full of great players who will all have the same determination to win matches and trophies.
“Having spoken to the manager I can see how much progress has been made over the last few seasons and I now join a group ready to play at the highest level.
“I want to make an impact here and I will give everything to become part of this club’s illustrious history.”
Solskjaer will be please with his business so far this summer; signing Heaton, Sancho and Varane so far, which could be better with a defensive minded midfielder arriving too, but that will result on getting fringe players out of the door too, whether on loan or on permanent deals. The challenge of the 2021/22 season will be tough for Solskjaer as he will be expected to win a trophy or the so-called fans who think he should be sacked will become prevalent in their own circles once again – thinking that can control what happens at the club. The squad has been turned around since Mourinho was sacked – perhaps these people cannot see this? Solskjaer, speaking to the official Manchester United website about his new signing, said:
“I’m absolutely delighted that we have managed to secure one of the best defenders in the world over the last 10 years.
“Raphaël [Varane] is a proven winner who we have tracked over a long period of time and we know just how much of a dedicated professional he is.
“We have great depth of international defenders and he will add his immense skill set and leadership to that group.
“He is a unique defender with a rare combination of top-level attributes that I know will rub off on our younger players.
“He has won everything there is to win but I know that he is still determined to succeed, I can’t wait to welcome him into the squad.”
Written by John Walker