Last season Chris Smalling and Daley Blind were held aloft as much better central defenders than they actually were. Louis van Gaal protected his defence, aware of the actual level they were at, and that contributed largely to the club’s lack of attacking verve under the Dutchman.
Jose Mourinho hasn’t given either player the same importance, and Eric Bailly is now the club’s senior central defender in the eyes of most. Marcos Rojo has become a Mourinho soldier and Phil Jones has shown enough to create a suspicion he may have a long term future for Manchester United in central defence.
However, it would be no surprise if Mourinho feels he needs to improve his selection. The defender most linked with Mourinho is Raphael Varane, with the two working well together at Real Madrid.
Over the weekend there were again reports of Mourinho interest, and whilst some of the claims may not be the most reliable, the idea seems a pretty solid one. Madrid’s continuing interest in David De Gea creates the possibility of a deal involving the two players.
But Mourinho needs to consider Varane’s injury history, and present. Should Manchester United sign a senior central defender the plan would surely be for that man to play the vast majority of Premier League and Champions League (there’s nothing wrong with a little optimism) matches, save a handful lost to niggles, suspension and resting.
Raphael Varane may not be that man.
Returning from his latest injury on Saturday against Alaves, Varane lasted 10 minutes. Those were the defender’s only minutes since February 22nd.
Over the past year Varane has suffered a calf injury, a thigh injury (which kept him out of Euro 2016), meniscus discomfort, muscular problems, a hamstring strain, and now another problem which may be a relapse.
There have even been suggestions in the Madrid media, way before the current issues, that Varane’s future at Real Madrid isn’t as nailed on as one may suspect, solely down to injury issues. Back in 2013 there were concerns an old injury was causing Varane discomfort and swelling, even after training, and whilst that issue appears to have been left behind it’s been replaced by others.
Varane’s ability as a central defender isn’t up for debate, but the injury issues must be a concern for Real Madrid, and by extension any club interested in signing the player. Should Real Madrid give Mourinho and Manchester United hope on a transfer, then it’s worth considering the reasons behind that.