Raphael Varane reveals he came close to joining Manchester United

Raphael Varane reveals he came close to joining Manchester United as a teenager and has spoken to Sir Alex Ferguson since signing for the club… as he sets his sight on starting a legacy at Man United with silverware at Wembley

  • Raphael Varane is convinced that a first trophy for his side will lead to more
  • The defender is preparing to play in the Carabao Cup final against Newcastle
  • As Varane also revealed he came close to joining the Red Devils as a teenager

Raphael Varane has a nice way of acknowledging his success without crossing the line into arrogance. Asked how long it took to recover from the heartbreak of losing a World Cup final in December, he pauses briefly before delivering a devastating punchline.

‘Well,’ he says. ‘It is easier to handle when you’ve already won one. Much easier.’

There is a twinkle in the 29-year-old’s eyes and there is no need for him to feel ashamed at enjoying his achievements.

Manchester United signed him from Real Madrid precisely because he is a serial winner and Sunday’s Carabao Cup final against Newcastle is a milestone in Erik ten Hag’s project to restore the Sir Alex Ferguson glory years.

While victory would deliver United their first trophy since 2017, Varane has won 11 in that time, including the World Cup, Nations League and a couple of Champions League and La Liga titles each.

Raphael Varane has played an important role in Man United’s resurgence this season

The centre-back (left) has had to bounce back from losing the 2022 World Cup final in Qatar

The way he celebrated with centre-half partner Lisandro Martinez after beating Barcelona on Thursday suggests the appetite for more prizes is far from sated and Varane is happy to use his knowhow to settle the nerves of any younger ones in the Wembley dressing-room.

He is also convinced that a first trophy on the board for Ten Hag’s new team will lead to more.

‘Experience helps in so many ways,’ says the Frenchman. ‘Before the match it can make everyone feel more calm and confident. It also helps in the game itself, when to press, when to hold your position.

‘That first trophy is very important. I remember speaking to Sergio Ramos about it in Madrid. When we started [2012 La Liga], we won a lot.

‘Madrid had gone a few years without winning and the first one changed, not the mentality but the belief. We started thinking ‘OK, we did it, so now we can do it again’.

‘You believe more is possible and when you’re confident you bring the luck with you. It’s a positive cycle.’ Interestingly, Varane says he got a bigger thrill from winning his first medals at Real than the years of domination that followed. 

‘It’s better when you’re going up. When you’re at the top, you can’t do anything better. Growing with this club team, that’s a great feeling,’ he says. ‘My best memories with Madrid were the climb and being on the journey.’

There is a sense of excitement at Old Trafford right now. Not just among the younger generation represented by Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho but also the older hands: Varane, Casemiro, David de Gea.

Varane rarely seems flustered. His partnership with Martinez looks like a combination of fire and ice and he says that’s exactly how it is.

The 29-year-old says Erik ten Hag has ‘brought a new direction for everyone’ at the club 

Below the surface, Varane expects a few butterflies. He welcomes it.

‘Of course I feel it in a big game,’ he says. ‘You have to control it and in any case, when you’re scared you run faster! Personally, I need some tension. I don’t play well without pressure.

‘I’ll try and lead by example. If a young player sees an experienced one acting calm, speaking with them, it’s helpful. If they see you are nervous and not communicating, it’s not a good thing.’

Varane’s first season at United was not stand-out. The club were in turmoil under different managers and injuries disrupted his rhythm.

Ten Hag’s arrival has changed everything. New arrivals Casemiro, Martinez, Antony and Christian Eriksen have raised standards. Longer-serving players De Gea, Luke Shaw, Bruno Fernandes and particularly Rashford have found a new lease of life.

Big decisions have been made with Cristiano Ronaldo jettisoned and club captain Harry Maguire sidelined. The results have seen United still fighting to win four different competitions. They are unbeaten in nine and show no signs of fatigue despite this being their eighth game in 27 days.

Varane has fully bought into it. Nine days after his exhausting World Cup had concluded, he wore a United shirt again against Nottingham Forest after illness had forced others to withdraw.

He and Martinez not only complement each other as a paring, they have encouraged the rest of the squad to enjoy defending as much as scoring a goal.

Varane is convinced that a first trophy on the board for Ten Hag’s team will lead to more

‘Before my first start of the season against Liverpool, I spoke with my team-mates and said we can celebrate every tackle and create something,’ he says.

‘Since then we’ve done it every game. It’s very positive and we can feel the energy and connection with the fans. The first objective now is this final but then, yeah, we want to see United at the top and playing Champions League every year.

‘For the young players, it’s about the mentality, keep the same focus. It’s not about being 20 years old and thinking there is no more to learn.’

The irony is Varane could have spent most of his career at United rather than at the Bernabeu. The club were ready to sign him as a teenager from Lens but at the last moment switched their attention to Chris Smalling.

‘I was very close to coming here,’ he says. ‘I think we were agreed, Lens and Manchester, but then, I don’t know, I think Manchester changed their mind. Another opportunity would arrive and the Bernabeu wasn’t bad!

‘I’ve spoken to Sir Alex Ferguson since I came here but not about what happened then, it is a long story and I didn’t want to say anything negative. I have too much respect for him.’

He may have missed out on the chance of working under Fergie but Varane has had some top managers in any case.

His first trophies in Spain came under Jose Mourinho who, ironically, is also the last United boss to lift silverware.

Varane was close to joining United as a teen and could have played under Sir Alex Ferguson

The Special One usually trusts senior players over emerging talents but Varane was so good at 19, he had to be picked. ‘The most important thing for Mourinho is mentality. If he thinks you are a soldier he will put you in. And I’m still a soldier. Yes, I am!,’ he says.

But with Ten Hag at the wheel, Varane is sure United have the best custodian in the manager’s chair.

While most neutrals may be rooting for Newcastle to end their 54-year wait for a trophy, it will be equally significant if Manchester United end their own six-year wait and show that Britain’s biggest football club is ready to win again.

‘The manager has brought a new direction for everyone,’ says Varane. ‘We know exactly where he wants to go.’

Source: Read Full Article