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"The Team Has Zero Functionality" - Rio Ferdinand Compares Raphael Varane's Manchester United Situation To Youth Football

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"The Team Has Zero Functionality" - Rio Ferdinand Compares Raphael Varane's Manchester United Situation To Youth Football

When Manchester United announced the signing of Raphaël Varane last summer, it felt like a dream come true.

Football is driven by imagination, and fans are the most imaginative of all. Supporters are constantly imagining what the future could look like, and transfer season is where this peaks.

For many years, Varane had been a name that fans had dreamed of one day seeing in the Red of Manchester. Last year, that dream came true. But sometimes when dreams materialize into reality, there's an adjustment process.

Varane's signing gave Manchester United what was perhaps a false sense of defensive security. His arrival loosened what was already a near-non-existent defensive structure, by believing that the four-time Champions League winner would simply shore everything behind him up. 

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Unfortunately, football is not this simple. Whilst in some games - most notably his debut against Wolves where he was Man of the Match and almost single-handedly defended his half of the pitch from the marauding Adama Traoré - Varane was able to do this, it proved to be unsustainable.

Manchester United's Raphael Varane. (Alamy)Manchester United's Raphael Varane. (Alamy)

The lack of structure, coupled with reoccurring fitness issues, meant that Varane struggled in his first season at Old Trafford. Fitness and form issued amongst his positional peers didn't aid him in his attempts to settle in. All in all, United's defensive situation was chaotic.

This kind of environment is not one in which footballers are able to thrive, players need support from their teammates and this is the foundation of what makes any great team. On his podcast, Vibe with Five, Rio Ferdinand echoes this sentiment when speaking about a centre back who has often been likened to him.

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Rio Ferdinand. (Alamy)Rio Ferdinand. (Alamy)

"He went from one team, the honours there tell you it was a functioning team at the top level, all the players playing to their maximum consistently, and went into an absolute reverse situation where the team has zero functionality, no confidence, no guidance and no structure of where they're going," Ferdinand stated.

The United legend continued on, "He went into an alien scenario where he's going, 'I have not seen this since youth team football'. To go from that world-class operating and culture and standard on a daily basis to what is at Manchester United is a huge, huge shift." 

Ferdinand was very strong on the difference between the two clubs right now not only on the pitch but in the way they operate off it, highlighting just how far Manchester United have fallen. Real Madrid have just won a La Liga and Champions League double, meanwhile Manchester United are set for Europa League football again.

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On Varane’s own performances, he commented that the French centre half is “probably sitting there like a rabbit in the headlights thinking, 'Wow, what is this?' He hasn't been the player we expected him to be when he came here, he would tell you that, he couldn't tell you anything else. I think he'll be saying, 'I've got to up levels next year, I need help, I need team-mates’.”

It is true that, like most elite-level footballers, Varane is his own biggest critic and will be looking at what needs to improve meticulously, not just for himself but for the defensive unit as a whole. Before he joined up with the squad last summer, he asked coaches for footage so that he could personally analyse and get to understand his new side’s defensive schemes, which tells us a lot about the player United have.

Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane lost just two games when starting together last season. (Alamy)
Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane lost just two games when starting together last season. (Alamy)

Ferdinand also believes that World Cup winner has learnt from playing in a poorer side this season, stating "He's probably realized, because as players when you're at your best form and you're winning, sometimes the ego talks loud, 'I'm a massive part of why we are what we are'. When really, you all need each other as much as one another, you need teammates to be the best."

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"[Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Zinedine] Zidane, Ronaldinho, these players do not do what they do without team-mates," he added. "When they accept these accolades and these awards they always thank team-mates straight away because they know that, you need them, without them you're not the superstar and the figure you are."

Varane played with Cristiano Ronaldo both in Madrid, where they were managed by Zinedine Zidane and three-peated the Champions League under his command, and is his teammate now in Manchester. All three have excellent football minds and have displayed great understanding of the importance the players around them play in not only their own individual performances but in the performance of the team as a whole, Zidane understands this more so than nearly anybody else in the history of the sport.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane. (Alamy)Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane. (Alamy)

Raphaël Varane has not been an integral part of World Cup and Champions League winning sides for no reason. He is one of the greatest defenders of all time, and United are clearly a better side with him than without him.

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But like everybody else, he is human. Whilst his fitness issues must be rectified next season, Varane cannot do all the defending himself. Better defensive structure and players are both required, and not just in defence. The team must improve, then the individuals will improve.

Featured Image Credit: alamy

Topics: Cristiano Ronaldo, Football, Manchester United, Premier League, Raphael Varane, Rio Ferdinand

Yusuf Haq
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