When Manchester United were able to release Raphael Varane from Real Madrid in the summer of 2021, the Red Devils were able to celebrate a coup.
Finally, the French centre-back, four-time winner of the Champions League and world champion in 2018, moved to the English record champion. And that for less than 50 million euros.
Just over two years later, no one is talking about a transfer coup anymore. Because Varane is as far from his best moment in his time at Real as Madrid is from Manchester.
The 30-year-old’s decline reached its lowest point on the last day of the Champions League, when he came on as a substitute in the 16th minute of the match against FC Copenhagen when the score was 1-0 for the guests.
With Varane, United’s defense falls apart
The fact that the match was subsequently lost 3-4 and ended in a debacle for United was largely due to the Frenchman. After he was replaced, he was never able to give the team the stability it needed and the defense literally fell apart in the finals.
The fact that Marcus Rashford was sent off shortly before half-time and United had to make do with one less player can only partially be cited as an excuse for the dismal defensive performance in the second half, given the Red Devils’ nominal class.
The personification of this achievement was Varane. Slow in defense, unfocused in the construction of the game. This is how Varane presented himself in Copenhagen. A performance beyond any doubt that was “crowned” by two serious errors in the creation of the decisive goal shortly before the end.
He was even mocked online by calling him a “clown.”
Varane is displaced by Jonny Evans
His replacement has already demonstrated the extent to which the former Real Madrid star has slipped down the defensive pecking order at Manchester United under manager Erik ten Hag.
He came on as a substitute for Jonny Evans, who suffered a hamstring strain. The Northern Irishman returned to Manchester United from Leicester City before this season and, at the age of 35, was really only thought of as a substitute in central defence.
But he has now replaced Varane, who is now only number four in United’s central defender rankings behind Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelöf and Evans.
A decision that must seem like the ultimate humiliation for France’s 2018 World Cup winner.
United legend Rio Ferdinand suggested on his YouTube show Vibe with Five that Varane had gotten a headache just from the thought. “He thinks: ‘I played with the best players in the world, I came to Man United and Jonny Evans is in the starting line-up ahead of me!’”
The coach denies that Varane’s relegation could have anything to do with disagreements in his relationship with Ten Hag. “Absolutely not,” he said. “These are tactical reasons why I chose two other players. I think Harry and Jonny did well.”
Varane is still out despite Evans’ injury
The Dutchman does not seem to have the best opinion of Varane. The multiple Champions League winner did not replace the injured Evans in the following Premier League match against Luton Town.
It was Swede Lindelöf who formed the central defense alongside Maguire and held firm in defense in the 1-0 win against the newly promoted team. Varane, for his part, was substituted again only in the final phase.
According to the club, Evans will be out for a few more weeks. At the moment it seems that Varane will have to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench in the coming games.
“I want to make a difference here and I will do everything I can to be part of the illustrious history of this club,” Varane said after his move to Manchester United.
Given the events of the last few weeks and months, there probably isn’t much left of this great initial motivation. Rather than an entry in the annals of the Red Devils, it currently looks more like an early farewell to Manchester.
His contract still has a date until 2025. But there is already speculation in the English media about a possible winter transfer to Saudi Arabia. Apparently there could even be a reunion with his former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. Al-Nassr is said to be interested.