Manchester United defender Raphael Varane emerged onto the pitch against Copenhagen after being benched by manager Erik ten Hag for the all-important Champions League clash.
He came into the fray 15 minutes into the game after 35-year-old Jonny Evans was forced off through injury. TV cameras painted a glum picture as Varane readied up without communication with Ten Hag or assistant Mitchell van der Gaag.
It followed the third game in a row that Varane had been left on the bench for United. Harry Maguire and Evans were preferred to the Frenchman for ‘tactical’ reasons against Manchester City, as Ten Hag put it.
After being a crucial player for the Dutchman last term, The Telegraph have reported that the relationship between the two is understood to have become strained in recent weeks, even though Ten Hag denied on Friday that there was any underlying issue with the player. “Absolutely not,” he said.
The aforementioned article added that it is thought that Ten Hag and Varane held a discussion following United’s 3-0 defeat in the Manchester derby following Ten Hag’s “tactical” comments, with Varane, at the time, said to still be wrestling with a fitness issue.
Chris Wheeler of the Daily Mail has also mentioned that Varane believed to be unhappy that Ten Hag said he was left out of the Manchester derby for tactical reasons and also the manager’s decision to play Evans with Maguire.
Ten Hag seems strict in his approach to the differences a player must have at left centre-back compared to the right, particularly their favoured foot. Luke Shaw started in the left centre-back role last term whilst Martinez was out instead of Maguire on many occasions.
Now, despite Evans being right-footed, the manager sees him as comfortable enough on his weaker side. This means there is a choice to be made between Maguire and Varane, both whom are right-footed players.
Asked whether it is a case of playing Maguire or Varane, the manager responded: “Ideally, yeah, but there are moments in certain games where they can play together and they have already proven they can do it.
“But the build up is not that fluid when one of them is playing from the left centre-back position. Licha [Martinez] and Luke Shaw can obviously but Jonny Evans and Victor Lindelof, they are right-footed but they can play really comfortably with their left and make the right angles, then you can construct a better formation where you can start to play.”
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