Big-name players influence others. If you have a leader in the dressing room then it’ll obviously rub off on others. But it’s just Manchester United’s luck at the moment that one of their star players has picked up a knock.
United confirmed that new signing Raphael Varane will be out of action for “a few weeks” after picking up a groin injury during France’s Nations League victory over Spain.
When luck isn’t going your way, it really is against you and United don’t have any currently. One day it could be a bad result and the next, you’re talking about injuries. Nothing is going in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s favour at the moment.
Before the international break, captain Harry Maguire was injured in the match against Aston Villa, which has sidelined him for weeks. It hasn’t been confirmed when he’ll be returning to action, but he’s definitely been a big miss.
Now Varane’s injury has been confirmed, it’s a massive concern. I know some people are quite relaxed about the situation, but do you remember what happened last season?
Loads of players and pundits were talking about the centre-back pairing of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire. People like Gary Neville claimed that United were “never going to win the Premier League with that centre-back pairing.” So how can some expect United to perform better with Lindelof and Eric Bailly? Wasn’t the goal to mount a challenge for the Premier League this season? Time is always the answer to these things.
Varane’s injury isn’t just impactful on United’s central defensive partnership. It’s also influential to other members of the defence too.
As we saw with the resurgence of Luke Shaw, he massively benefitted with Maguire next to him, barking orders to push higher and make overlapping runs. He’s become a better player because of it.
Like most players, they benefit from having better quality around them and one player who certainly reaped off the rewards Varane brought was Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Wan-Bissaka has improved going forward for United this season (Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images) The 23-year-old right-back has been an impressive signing by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he looks to have cemented his place in the first XI with his commanding performances.
Wan-Bissaka is, in my opinion, the best defensive full-back in the league. After all, have you seen some of the tackles he puts in? Sometimes you think ‘how did he do that?’ Out of the seven Premier League games he’s played, he averages (per 90) two tackles, 1.6 clearances, 1.3 interceptions and a pass accuracy of 85.7 percent. In one-on-one situations, there’s no one else who you’d rather not come up against.
However, there are flaws to his game. Positionally, he’s sometimes caught out at his back post, and going forward, he still needs to up his goal and assists tally. It was last season where we really saw the negative parts to his game.
The signing of Varane was meant to help Wan-Bissaka and when they did play, it looked like they had a partnership going down that right-hand side. Remember the celebration between the two after United won at Wolves? It looked like something big was emerging.
The distance Varane covers, coupled with the spaces he occupies an average tackle success rate (70 per cent in La Liga), would’ve allowed Wan-Bissaka to push forward and create less emphasis on tracking back. You could even see it working as well. United’s right-back has looked more composed and fluent going forward because he’s been allowed to express himself, with less pressure to defend.
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Varane’s pace (last clocked at 34.00km/h) also meant that Wan-Bissaka’s positioning hasn’t been highlighted at all this season. Yes, he’s also individually worked on himself, but the signing of the Frenchman has papered over the cracks a bit.
Will Varane’s absence impact on Wan-Bissaka? You’d have to say yes if he makes similar mistakes to those he made last season when Lindelof was by his side.
He’s certainly improved his game, but this is a setback. No doubt about it.
Stats sourced from WhoScored.com
Will Varane be a miss to Wan-Bissaka? Follow our United On My Mind writer Omar Garrick on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below.