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Man United star “will never be like” Champions League winner says Gary Neville, despite having more trophies



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Former United captain Gary Neville has praised Raphaël Varane for his individual defending but questions his ability to manage the backline.

Varane, 30, has been a sentinel for Erik ten Hag when he has played for United this season; however, as the World Cup winner approaches the final months of his contract at the club, his future at Old Trafford is uncertain.

Due to this, Sir Jim Ratcliffe and INEOS have made the centre-back position a priority in the summer transfer window. The Reds are heavily linked to Everton’s Jarrad Branthwaite and Juventus’ Gleison Bremer.

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The central defence has been an issue for United for some time now, with the likes of Victor Lindelöf failing to fill the shoes of the dominant presence that many fans were used to in the club’s glory years.

In the most recent episode of The Overlap, Gary Neville revealed that the one Liverpool player he would take for the Red Devils is Virgil van Dijk for the sole reason of having a general-like personality to marshall the back four.

United hoped they had signed a player of the Champions League winner’s quality when they landed Raphaël Varane from Real Madrid in the summer of 2021 for £41 million. But the Frenchman has not lived up to his billing, struggling to find consistency and missing 39 games through illness or injury.

“I don’t think he’ll ever be that player,” Neville said. “For me, when I watch Varane, he actually defends his part of the pitch very well and the box very well – he heads out a lot of balls and is quite dominant in the air. I just think he’s that kind of centre-half who will always do – and to be fair, he might have been at Real Madrid when he was alongside [Sergio] Ramos – his own job really well, but I don’t think he’ll impact the players around him.

“And that’s not a criticism, by the way, because, to be fair, there are many great centre-halves who do their own job very well but don’t actually manage a back four. A great centre-half who can manage a back four is your Van Dijks, your Terrys – great players of all time – but he’s just one of those great centre-halves that does his own job really well, I think.”

The United defence seems more solid when Varane is involved, and as alluded to by Neville, the Frenchman is seriously successful when playing alongside a dominant personality, which is seen when he’s paired with Lisandro Martínez.

Unfortunately, both are hampered by injuries however it would seem to be a silly and shortsighted decision to let a player of Varane’s quality and experience to leave for free, especially if the club brings a young and impressionable defender like Branthwaite in.

Varane, of course, has a historic four Champions League trophies to his name, partnering Ramos at Real Madrid, and has a career total of 21 trophies for club and country.