Manchester United have problems in defence. Of that, there is no doubt. Whether it’s utilising Daley Blind as a centre back, Chris Smalling’s form, Jose Mourinho’s lack of use for Matteo Darmian or his apparent distrust of Luke Shaw’s willingness to play for his club, it’s clear that the Portuguese is still some way off figuring out what his first choice back four should look like.
One of the problems is that Mourinho has a surplus of players who arguably aren’t quite up to the task of being a starting centre back for the club. Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo are both frankly quite lucky to still be at the club, with both suffering from injuries during their tenures at the club and frequently struggling when they have been fit. Smalling, though clearly capable has suffered from lapses in form, and Blind, for his qualities is not a centre back by trade, and has been ruthlessly exposed on several occasions.
The signing of Eric Bailly has arguably helped, with the former Villareal defender slotting into the team seamlessly and adding some much needed bite and physicality, but Mourinho is still unclear as to who should be playing around him.
One option that was floated during the January transfer window was Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane. The French centre back played with Mourinho at Los Blancos during his three-year stay at the Bernabeu, and was a big fan of him. Of course, no deal materialised last summer, with Varane preferring to stay and play under his compatriot Zinedine Zidane. If quotes in The Mirror are anything to go by, any move for Varane now looks even less likely to happen.
Speaking to Le Figaro, Varane said: “Right now, I would like to stay at Real Madrid until the end of my career.
“Things are going very fast in this industry, but why would I not want to retire at Madrid? There is no reason for me to leave.
“I am feeling very well at Madrid. It is obviously very difficult to predict what the future looks like, but I cannot see myself leaving at the moment.”
This news certainly makes any deal to bring Varane to Old Trafford look exceptionally difficult, for sure, but for all intents and purposes, it’s unlikely to change much for Mourinho, who will surely have surmised that his protégé was unlikely to depart Madrid for Manchester last summer, even though Pepe and Sergio Ramos remain as competition. Still, it won’t exactly aid the former Chelsea boss’ quest to solidify United’s back four.