Erik ten Hag reveals hopes for Raphael Varane in second season at Man Utd
The defender had an injury impacted first year at Manchester United, something his manager hopes won’t happen this campaign.
Erik ten Hag has said he believes Raphael Varane will enjoy a better season for Manchester United in 2022/23, in comparison to the one he experienced last term.
The French defender joined the Red Devils from Real Madrid 12 months ago and was unveiled at Old Trafford before the opening game of the ‘21/22 season against Leeds United.
But it proved to be a frustrating year for Varane, who was absent for three separate spells in the team due to injury problems, as well as testing positive for Covid-19 in March.
Those issues have contined into the summer, with the 29-year-old picking up an injury when represnting France in June, while his pre-season preparations were impacted by a knock which resulted in him missing matches against Melbourne Victory and Crystal Palace.
In addition, Varane’s on-field showings last season weren’t at the levels United fans perhaps expected of a centre-back who has won the World Cup and claimed four Champions League winner’s medals.
But ahead of the new campaign, which begins on Sunday when United host Brighton & Hove Albion, Ten Hag revealed Varane has been undergoing a specialised fitness regime in recent weeks and he says it should result in more regular game-time for the Frenchman over the coming months.
Asked if he hopes to see the best of Varane this season, Ten Hag responded: “One hundred percent I am convinced about that.
“We built him during pre-season really carefully on an individual programme. He is, the last three weeks, on the pitch for every session. I am really happy with that.
“You see him growing, his fitness levels and his performances levels. I am really happy with that. In the moment, Rapha will be fit, it’s a huge strength for the squad and the team.”
Despite Ten Hag’s optimistic comments, Varane is not expected to start when United host Brighton, with Victor Lindelof appearing to move ahead of him in the pecking order after the Swede impressed in pre-season.
Meanwhile, the United manager also said Lisandro Martinez is fit to start against the Seagulls, meaning he has four high-quality options to choose from at the heart of defence.