When Manchester United splashed out £34m to sign Raphael Varane in 2021, the club’s plan was not to spend £46m on another centre-back just 12 months later.
That’s exactly what United have just done, paying big for Ajax defender Lisandro Martinez.
After a defensive nightmare last season in which United conceded 58 goals in 38 Premier League games, something had to be done, and new manager Erik ten Hag now has a centre-back he knows he can trust – signing Martinez for the second time in three years.
Raphael Varane wasn’t terrible – he just wasn’t part of the solution. Still.
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Raphael Varane fitness issues
A big problem for Raphael Varane is fitness. Even this pre-season has highlighted a lack of reliability since his move to United. He started and played 45 minutes against Liverpool – then missed the game against Melbourne Victory with a minor knock.
Varane started just 20 of the 37 Premier League games he was eligible to play in last season. He suffered two injuries on the national team with France, which cost him time.
The Frenchman has shown flashes of quality in his first season at United. His debut against Wolves was excellent, and an outstanding away game at Tottenham also stood out. But with center partner Harry Maguire struggling, the pair have failed to form a productive relationship.
When Lisandro Martinez gets into bed, Varane, Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly could fight to partner him.
The good news is that there will be plenty of games. United have 16 Premier League games before the World Cup, plus six Europa League games and two League Cup games. That’s 24 games between August and November.
What we have seen from Varane so far at Manchester United is that he is not a player that United can rely on to play two games a week, every week, for three months.
Throw in the international break and the World Cup, and it’s no wonder Erik ten Hag decided United needed an extra centre-back.
Varane and Martinez could form a very strong defensive partnership and could be United’s first choice – if the Frenchman stays fit.
Chances are Varane will continue to be plagued by fitness issues and Maguire and Lindelof will get their chances. Even Bailly if he stays.
Varane is top class but when it comes to reliability he has a lot to prove and Lisandro Martinez gives United added security in a key position.