Manchester United have a lot of problems at the moment and the absence of Raphael Varane is close to the top of the list.
The four-time Champions League winner has only played nine times for United, but it is in the matches he has missed that the influence he is already making is starting to shine through.
Despite having come in a defense where two of its members – Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw – have seen their form fall off a cliff since the summer, and the other in Aaron Wan-Bissaka has not had much form to speak of. for a while, Varane has still looked good.
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Adapting to a new league after a decade in Spain is not easy, but he already looks comfortable in England, able to get in among the tough ones, but his elegance and reading of the game often means he can get around it anyway with a well-timed eavesdropping or tackling.
Since Varane made his debut in the 1-0 win over Wolves, United have won 5 of the seven matches in which he has started, a winning percentage of 71.4. In stark contrast, they have only won one of the six matches where he did not start. Blot 16.67 pct.
It is, of course, a small sample size, but as the Frenchman is likely to miss upcoming matches against Villarreal, Chelsea and a resurgent Arsenal, that percentage could be even lower after the international break.
The difference in United’s last three Premier League matches also tells you everything you need to know. Against Liverpool, United were absolutely hopeless defensively, virtually all players were pulled out of position and they were ripped to pieces.
The next match was against an opponent of a much lower standard at Tottenham, but the marked increase in the organization at the back with Varane’s experienced presence – along with a much-needed formation change – was evident.
After suffering an injury against Atalanta this week, Varane was so unavailable for the visit by neighbors Manchester City, and this time two ridiculous defensive errors cost them.
Both errors were due to a total lack of communication behind, the players were not informed of where the dangers were. Eric Bailly did attempt a finish, but from an awkward position, sending the ball into the away fans.
United would probably have lost even if Varane was in the side, but it’s hard to imagine that the defense would have looked quite as sluggish with him there to deliver the lead that was so clearly lacking.
Against Spurs, United conceded only nine shots and not a single one was on target. Liverpool had 19 attempts, eight on goal, while City had 16 and five on goal. It is even with both of these teams that completely took the foot off the gas in the second half.
Varane’s significance is already clear, making his current injury situation even more of a problem.
Although it is understood that he was not rushed back from an injury after missing three matches with a groin strain recorded on international service, he played only 128 minutes of football before then being hit by a hamstring injury.
At least a month’s break is expected and he is likely to miss the next four games against a tough opposition, which is a significant part of the season that is missing – especially with the problems United are in.
The sooner he comes back, the better, but it may be too late for Ole Gunnar Solskjær.
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