Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag might push Raphael Varane further towards the exit door if he leaves the Frenchman out of his starting 11 for Tuesday’s Champions League clash with Copenhagen. Intriguingly, Ten Hag has left Varane out of the team for the last two Premier League matches, enhancing speculation about the defender’s future.
Varane was strongly linked with a switch to Saudi Arabia in the summer transfer window. A defensive overhaul might have occurred had he and Harry Maguire departed Old Trafford, with additional funds made available through their sales to spend on upgrades.
However, both players remained at the club beyond the summer transfer deadline in September. Varane was initially in Ten Hag’s first-choice team, although Maguire was demoted to the fourth-choice central defender.
Varane appears to have since lost his place under Ten Hag even during a mini defensive injury crisis. Maguire and Jonny Evans started ahead of the former Real Madrid star for top-flight clashes against Man City and Fulham.
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Ten Hag might just have been managing Varane’s minutes. The France international has at times struggled with niggling injuries since his arrival at United in 2021. But there could also be a sense that he is being left out as he no longer features in the Dutchman’s long-term plans.
Ominously, Ten Hag bluntly explained that “tactics” were the reason for Varane’s omission from the line-up against rivals City. Asked why Varane had not featured from the start, the United boss insisted: “Tactics.”
Pressed further on whether the Manchester derby experience of Maguire, Evans and Victor Lindelof played a role in his decision, he responded: “Yeah, but that’s not the argument to make the selection as I said it’s just tactics. That’s the answer.”
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Ten Hag clearly does not believe that Varane fits into his current system at United. That could lead to the Red Devils seeking a buyer for the 30-year-old in January, either to Saudi Arabia or elsewhere.
United are in desperate need of defensive improvements but might struggle to sign a big-money upgrade without letting go of either Varane or Maguire.
If Ten Hag discards Varane for United’s crunch Champions League clash with Copenhagen – with qualification for the knockout rounds potentially on the line – then it seems likely that the player will head for the Old Trafford exit very soon.
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