Manchester United are pushing ahead with a move for centre-back Raphael Varance. RMC Sport reported late last week that United are clear frontrunners.
Varane could strike up a partnership with England international Harry Maguire in the heart of United’s defence.
This is potentially United’s best partnership since the successful days of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. They have to go and prove it, but the potential is there.
And the strength of the Maguire and Varane partnership is key to United’s planned midfield shake-up.
ESPN report United are considering moving away from last season’s 4-2-3-1 formation and evolving to a 4-3-3. This means only one of Scott McTominay and Fred is likely to be selected in each game.
Last season the pair proved to be an effective partnership, but at times it was seen as too unambitious, particularly in big games where United saw a succession of 0-0 draws (twice against Chelsea, once against Arsenal and once against City).
There is obviously more risk with United’s new plan, but the rest of the team is equipped to cope. With Jadon Sancho’s arrival, United have the added attacking quality to break down defences.
The biggest key to making this work is Varane. As an upgrade on Victor Lindelof, he brings United’s defence up a level.
No longer do United’s centre-backs need protection from a midfield two.
Instead United can be more confident and assured in the backline and play with less fear.
Both of Varane and Maguire are strong in the air, confident in possession stepping out of defence, and complement each other well.
It is a partnership which may need a little time to bed in, but once it does, it could be among the best in Europe. They don’t need the extra protection of two defensive midfielders, especially against teams who come to defend against United.
Solskjaer’s United were a strong attacking team from day one and he lost a little bit of that last season, clearly haunted by the early season defeat at home to Tottenham.
The players have to prove they can make the 4-3-3 work and Solskjaer will have to stick to his plan and not revert as soon as there is a poor result.
United have to get the Varane deal over the line too. Fortunately that is looking pretty promising right now, but you can never be too sure until it is actually done.
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