Former Manchester United striker Louis Saha believes Raphael Varane needs to learn from Harry Maguire as he looks to win back his spot in the starting XI.
Varane started Man Utd’s first three league games of the season but only lasted 45 minutes of the 3-2 win over Nottingham Forest, before being taken off due to injury. The Frenchman missed the next three games and has only started one league match since, playing 87 minutes of the 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace at the end of September.
Instead, Varane has had to settle for a role as a rotational centre-back, starting in the Champions League home games against Galatasary and FC Copenhagen as well as captaining Man Utd in their 3-0 EFL Cup win over Crystal Palace.
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Currently starting over Varane at the moment is the centre-back pairing of Maguire and Jonny Evans, favoured by Erik ten Hag in a throwback to 2018/19. In the four games they have started as a duo this season across all competitions, Man Utd have won three, beating Brentford, Sheffield United and Fulham. Their only failure came in a 3-0 home defeat to Manchester City.
Maguire in particular has been receiving a lot of plaudits for his performances recently, re-finding form after a period of struggle. Such is his upturn in form, Maguire has been named among the six-man shortlist for Premier League Player of the Month, alongside Jeremy Doku, Anthony Gordon, Thomas Kaminski, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Tavernier.
The Englishman has been the constant in Man Utd’s defence as they have kept three-straight clean sheets in the Premier League, whether starting alongside Evans or Victor Lindelof.
And Saha, who spent four years with Man Utd between 2004 and 2008, believes Varane should look to Maguire for inspiration in how to get his starting spot back.
“Harry Maguire is in better form than Varane at the moment so he deserves to start,” Saha told BettingOdds.com.
“He accepted when he was on the bench and not playing that he would have to take his opportunity when it came and he has done that and come in and performed really well. He could have left the club, but he remained and credit to him. Now, Varane has the same challenge. He needs to see what Maguire did and learn from that.”
Varane essentially being dropped — in that he hasn’t returned to the starting XI after injury — has led to some questions being asked surrounding Man Utd signing the Frenchman, as well as Casemiro. The duo, having struggled with injuries, are showing signs of perhaps being phased out of the Man Utd team and onto the fringes of the squad, as Ten Hag looks to herald in a newer era. Ten Hag has already had big decisions to make at Man Utd which included taking Cristiano Ronaldo out of his team, eventually leading to the Portuguese forward leaving.
And while Saha commends Ten Hag for giving a strong message to the rest of the squad that anyone could be dropped on form, he does admit there could be a risk of showing a lack of respect.
He added: “If you consider the amount of money spent on big players like Varane and Casemiro, it could be seen as a mistake. But at the same time, they are not complaining, both ready to perform when given the opportunity.
“The thing I can see with Ten Hag is he tends to be willing to make more harsh selection decisions on the players that have way more experience than the young players who still have a lot to learn. These players are the finished product, and it’s clear Ten Hag will say if you don’t perform for two or three games then you are out, which maybe gives a strong message to the rest of the players that if Varane or Casemiro can be dropped, then anybody can be.
“That could be good, but it is a risky strategy for ten Hag. I feel like you have to give those players a bit more respect, because they didn’t join United to sit on the bench.”