Manchester United were at times a joy to watch under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. This was of course in regard to their attacking where some periodic nice moves and combinations up the pitch led to fantastic goals.
Why signing Varane was bad business for Manchester United
The decorated French defender's purchase might end up being a nightmare rather than a dream come true for the Red Devils.
As good as United often were on the counter, they equally gave the opposition tons of opportunities to replicate the same, thanks to their porous defense.
For much of his time as manager, Solskjaer simply did not get the best out of his defenders, especially the center-back pairing of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof.
The former, who was an £80 million signing from Leicester City, was supposed to be an upgrade. Rather, he and Lindelof have constantly been a shadow of themselves, making school boy errors time and time again, especially Maguire, whose worthiness of the captain's armband is steadily questioned.
It was clear another solid center-back was needed if United wanted to be back among the best in England and Europe as of time past, and so they did this summer by going for a massive name in Raphael Varane. The French man hardly needs an introduction, with his 11-year association with Real Madrid which produced many trophies, and on the international scene, leading France to World Cup glory 20 years after they did it on home soil.
Getting him at a bargain of £34 million at 28 years of age made the deal even more exciting.
Things started pretty well for Varane at United as he partnered Maguire. He put in very good performances, but it still did not stop the goals from leaking in as the defense remained porous and Maguire in his error-prone self, left Varane exposed and constantly needing to make many last ditch challenges.
At least there is finally a solid center-back that United needs and then a disaster strikes: Varane gets injured.
The former RC Lens man has suffered multiple injuries in his career like a knee injury during the 2013-14 season, muscle strain and hamstring injuries during the 2016-17 season and another hamstring injury towards the end of 2020-21 campaign. He has been out with a groin injury since October. One thing about Varane's injuries is that they reoccur within the same season.
Varane's absence now puts United back to the default of Maguire and Lindelof as the preferred centre-back option and it is still the same mistakes of old. The duo are among the fittest in the club having played more than 8000 combined minutes last season. So no surprises they will get the nod to start more often than not.
Varane is expected to be back in early December and if he does, what is the guarantee he will not get injured again soon?
It will just be like Owen Hargreaves who United purchased from Bayern Munich in 2007. He had suffered a broken leg that kept him out for almost the entirety of the 2006-07 season before he moved to Old Trafford. He recovered quite alright, and even though he had an impressive first season with the Red Devils, helping the club to a Premier League and Champions League double, it was not the same in the following seasons, as he nursed more injuries that limited him to just 39 competitive appearances in four years, which ended making his time in the red half of Manchester more of pain than joy.
This is not to say Varane will be like Hargreaves, but having him in and out with injuries will be disruptive as the other alternate option in Eric Bailly, is equally one snap on his knee away from the treatment table.
Considering Varane's injury history, it is no surprise Real Madrid were not willing to offer him his contract demands as it had a year left to wind down. This also explains why he cost a bargain. Los Blancos have moved on from Varane and are not doing too badly as they currently lead La Liga and are favorites to win it.
That is a different reality for Manchester United who are still having to make use of Maguire and Lindelof and are still far off from where they should really be.
At the end of the day, Real Madrid are the big winners, while United might be the losers, and the search for that perfect, and most importantly, fit center-back, will continue.
Kunle is an avid writer with interest in topics on sports, politics and health. His articles have featured in Goal.com, Opera News and Vanguard News. He holds a Bachelors and Masters degree in International Relations and is an advocate for people living with Hydrocephalus and other neurological conditions.
Pulse Contributors is an initiative to highlight diverse journalistic voices. Pulse Contributors do not represent the company Pulse and contribute on their own behalf.
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