Can Varane turn Man Utd into title contenders?
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As a deal for Real Madrid stalwart Raphael Varane edges ever closer for Man Utd, the Old Trafford faithful can begin to get excited over what the Frenchman will bring to their backline.
A decade spent at Los Blancos means Varane has an abundance of experience in title races, something United will be aiming to be part of next season as they look to close the gap on their ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City.
The Varane fee is reported to be worth around £37m, a price likely to look a bargain considering the stature of the defender.
While Varane’s technical quality is clear, the idea of him at the heart of United’s defence alongside skipper Harry Maguire will excite every United fan.
Both Varane and Maguire are 28 years of age, while hardly young prospects, United could be enjoying the fruits of their potential partnership for the next four years at least.
Maguire has been starved of a world class partner during his two years at the club, instead often paired with one of Victor Lindelof or Eric Bailly, both of whom have delivered displays that leave a lot to be desired.
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As recently as this summer’s European Championship, Maguire has cemented his status as one of the best central defenders on the continent – crucial to an England side that conceded two goals all tournament, none from open play.
Every member of Gareth Southgate’s England Euro 2020 squad can hold their heads high after the Three Lions reached their first major tournament final in 55 years, but Harry Maguire’s consistently world class performances marked a new era for the Man Utd skipper.
Maguire’s displays for England throughout the tournament were that of a man more than comfortable at the highest level of international football, unphased by the likes of Germany and Italy in the knockout stages.
His ability to play his way out of trouble, seemingly effortlessly dribbling between the lines meant Maguire is nearly as useful in an attacking sense as he is defensively – without even mentioning his aerial prowess, bagging yet another goal for his country in the form of a trademark bullet header against Ukraine.
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Often burdened by the weight of his £80m price tag, each and every minor mistake made since he made the switch from the King Power Stadium to Old Trafford has been scrutinised.
Though being the captain of the biggest club in English football guarantees your performances will be under a white-hot spotlight more often than most, Maguire seemed to arrive in Manchester as a flop before a ball had even been kicked.
However, quietly but consistently over the course of last season, Maguire’s stock continued to rise as he helped guide United to a second-place league finish, comfortably securing Champions League football for next season, as well as aiding in the ending of manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s semi-final hoodoo to reach the Europa League final.
Maguire’s quality was notable by its absence, United losing that final to Villarreal ensuring their four-year trophy drought continued as the centre-back missed the clash after sustaining ankle ligament damage towards the end of the season.
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Fully recovered and expected to return to the starting line-up within the first three games of the upcoming season, Maguire will have a spring in his step should he turn and see a four-time Champions League winner to the side of him.
Both naturally right footed, Varane and Maguire aren’t perfectly complimentary of each other, but expect class to shine through if two of the best ball playing centre-backs in Europe play alongside each other next season.
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