Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick confirmed in Friday’s press conference that Raphael Varane is ruled out for Saturday’s Premier League match against Norwich. The World Cup winner’s debut season has been disrupted by injuries and his latest setback could prove to be a damning blow to United’s top-four hopes.
Rangnick’s side enter Saturday’s match knowing that there is no margin for error if they are to close the gap to fourth-placed Tottenham between now and the end of the season. The German will be looking for a reaction from his side after a disappointing two weeks that have seen the United draw at home to Leicester and lose at Everton.
Varane missed last week’s 1-0 defeat at Goodison Park and, along with Scott McTominay, Fred, Luke Shaw and Edinson Cavani, is unavailable for selection against the Canaries. Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are United’s most likely defensive partnership for the visit of Dean Smith’s side, but the return to fitness of Eric Bailly means Rangnick has options to cope without Varane.
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28-year-old Varane arrived at the club in August, bringing composure and a winning mentality to United’s backline. Despite the expectation of him, the serial winner has endured a handful of injuries that have limited his time on the pitch.
In his first five Premier League matches, Varane only tasted defeat on one occasion. After suffering a groin injury, the French international missed two matches, in which United lost both and conceded nine goals.
Across the season, Varane has made 16 Premier League starts, keeping four clean sheets. Considering United have only kept seven league clean sheets overall, Varane’s importance is evident.
While United have struggled to keep clean sheets this season, there have been 15 matches where they have only allowed their opponents to score one goal, and Varane has started in 10 of them. Varane has only lost on two occasions in the league when he has started, and United have only won five out of the 12 matches the Frenchman has not played in.
Perhaps Varane’s biggest impact is on United’s attacking play. While not being directly involved in goals, with only one assisting his name him this season, the composed centre-back provides incisive passing which allows his team to play on the front foot.
On average, United score 1.38 goals in the Premier League when Varane is not involved, whereas they average 1.5 goals when the French defender starts. United cannot afford to drop any more points and goals will go a long way to earning these vital wins.
If the United are to put together a late run in the league and make a push for Champions League qualification, they need consistency. Not having Varane available could prove to be a massive blow to this ambition. The Frenchman is unbeaten in his last eight league starts and with important matches against title-chasing Liverpool and fellow top-four rivals Arsenal to come after Norwich, Rangnick will hope to have his defender back sooner rather than later.
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