Raphael Varane has been one of the real success stories under Erik ten Hag at Manchester United so far this season.
He arrived at the club last summer and was seen as a pivotal addition to help solidify the Red Devils' defence. However, rarely was he able to sustain a settled run in the side during his first full campaign which was plagued by niggling injuries and illnesses.
Despite being brought in to be an almost guaranteed starter, it was telling that due to his fitness issues, nine United players accumulated more league minutes than the Frenchman last season. Upon joining the club, Ten Hag placed Varane on a bespoke training programme in order to fast-track his return to form, and it’s fair to say he’s rewarded the Dutchman with a number of standout displays in the campaign so far.
He’s been particularly impressive in recent weeks, starting and playing an important role in United’s four consecutive Premier League wins. His success has been aided by the influence of newcomer Lisandro Martinez who has silenced critics by making his own impressive start to life at Old Trafford.
The partnership between these two has kept skipper Harry Maguire on the bench, and right now it’s tough to see how the England man forges himself a spot in the starting XI once again.
Varane continued that strong domestic form in midweek when he completed a full 90 minutes for France as they beat Austria 2-0 in the UEFA Nations League. The 29-year-old captained Didier Deschamps’ men and was commanding all night.
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Lining up in a back three as part of a 3-4-1-2 formation, he made an impressive 14 ball recoveries, four clearances and won 100% of his three aerial duels. The United star was also a key cog in possession, with 92 per cent of his passes finding their intended target.
Thanks in part to Varane’s dominance, the visitors, now under the guidance of former United interim manager Ralf Rangnick, failed to register a single shot on target.
Up next for France is Denmark, Varane’s form suggests he will once again be one of the first names on the team sheet, though Ten Hag might be hoping he’s granted a rest, especially with the big Manchester derby on the horizon a week later.
Despite the vast gap in quality between the two rivals in recent years, United actually boast a decent recent record at the home of their rivals, winning three of their last four visits.
Another victory would see the Reds extend their winning streak in the Premier League to five matches and add real substance to the belief that Ten Hag’s side could at very least push for a Champions League spot this season, although some fans might even be dreaming of more if this form continues.