Man Utd: Maguire welcomes Sancho to Old Trafford
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Manchester United will be sending out quite the statement should they successfully agree a deal to sign Raphael Varane this summer. United have been chasing the Real Madrid defender for a number of years, but appear closer than ever before to bringing the 28-year-old to Old Trafford.
The Manchester Evening News have claimed that the Red Devils are close to agreeing personal terms with Varane and hope to conclude the deal in the next few weeks, in what would represent a major coup for the club.
With the services of Jadon Sancho already secured, the arrival of the France international would represent a remarkable start to the transfer window for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
In recent years, rivals Liverpool and Manchester City have led the way in the transfer market with effective signings having an instant impact on the team. United, meanwhile, have fallen further behind in their quest of a first Premier League title since 2013 due to poor recruitment.
Donny van be Beek is just one example of a player who has arrived Old Trafford with high expectations, only to be unexpectedly phased out of the club’s plans.
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The former Ajax midfielder built a strong reputation in the Eredivisie and Champions League, though was overlooked time and time again during his debut campaign.
But United are showing early signs that they are no longer prepared to make the same mistakes in the window as they prepare to mount a title challenge next season.
The Red Devils’ defence has proven to be the team’s Achilles heel in recent seasons and Varane would certainly go some way to addressing a backline that were so often caught out with ease last campaign.
Solskjaer’s side conceded 18 goals from set-pieces during the 2020/21 season and continued to be punished in this department no matter whether it was Eric Bailly or Victor Lindelof partnering Harry Maguire in defence.
Only Leeds United (15) conceded more goals from set-piece situations than the Red Devils (14), which goes a long way to explaining why Solskjaer’s side fell short in their bid for top spot.
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United shipped 44 league goals in 2020/21, with set-pieces accounting for 31 per cent of these strikes.
It’s an issue that Solskjaer discussed earlier this year and recognises has held the team back.
“In big games against good players and good teams we lose that bit of focus. It’s a big part of football – so many goals are conceded from set plays,” he said.
“We do have a good record of winning the first ball, but when we don’t it seems like it goes in every time. It’s something that we have addressed, that we need to do better at; we seem to suffer [badly] from this. When we don’t get the first contact we have been punished quite severely and more often than anyone else.”
Varane and Maguire could be the perfect partnership to inspire a defensive improvement, in the same way that Virgil van Dijk transformed Liverpool or Ruben Dias changed Man City.
Solskjaer’s United rebuild has been slow at times and is yet to result in silverware, but the signing of Varane could be about to change that.
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