Varane convinced Man Utd have squad for success despite recent struggles

By Sports Desk September 28, 2021

Raphael Varane is convinced Manchester United have a squad that is set up for success despite some alarming recent results. 

The last fortnight has seen United lose their Champions League opener to Young Boys and crash out of the EFL Cup against West Ham prior to Saturday's shock Premier League defeat at home to Aston Villa. 

Expectations are high for United in 2021-22 after World Cup winner Varane joined from Real Madrid, while long-term target Jadon Sancho came in from Borussia Dortmund and Cristiano Ronaldo made his sensational return from Juventus. 

The pressure is back on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer going into Wednesday's match with Villarreal, but Varane is not overly worried as he sees the ingredients required for success within the club. 

"What I've been able to see is, with my team-mates, there's a lot of quality in our squad," Varane said as he sat alongside Solskjaer at the pre-match news conference. 

"We've got huge potential, I'm convinced of it. 

"We're working really hard, we're working well in training and improving all the time. Since the start of the season I think we're on a positive, upward curve. 

"There is talent, there's experience there as well. We've got everything you need to have that belief that you can do well. 

"I think that's a really key issue - we've got to believe in ourselves, be convinced that we can do it. We have got to be ambitious, believe in our own potential and then I think you can achieve things when you do that. 

"Everything is there in the right place. Each time we go into a game, we go on that track and keep on that road of positivity, think on how we can improve in little details. 

"We are on the right road." 

Varane may have to hold a weakened United defence together when they face Villarreal at Old Trafford. 

Fellow centre-back Harry Maguire is out for a few weeks with a calf injury, while Aaron Wan-Bissaka is suspended and Luke Shaw will be a late fitness check. 

United face a tough test, having failed to win in their five previous meetings with Villarreal, scoring just once in those contests. 

Villarreal are also unbeaten in their last 16 major European games (W12 D4) across the Europa League and Champions League, the longest current run of any side.  

Ahead of the key Group F clash, Varane agreed the pressure of playing for United can be compared with what he experienced during his time at Madrid. 

"Big clubs are always wanting a lot of their players, they expect a lot from the players," he said. 

"There are a lot of demands. It is always hard to make comparisons but I believe that it's fairly similar in terms of the hopes and demands and expectations at big clubs. 

"After a defeat or a draw, you know what it's like, it's always very negative when that happens.  

"The key is to keep up good runs of results and be positive. That pressure you kind of live with it at big clubs - there is always a lot of expectation, for sure." 

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    Trafford Council is looking forward to working with Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe on his ambitious plans to regenerate the south of the city.

    Ratcliffe set out two routes to providing United with a stadium which he feels would befit the club’s status – either a redevelopment of Old Trafford or building a brand-new stadium which would be a northern rival to Wembley.

    Ratcliffe sees the extra revenue generated from either option as a key factor in helping United consistently challenge north-west rivals Manchester City and Liverpool for domestic and European honours, having vowed on Wednesday to “knock both of them off their perch”.

    He anticipated redevelopment would cost in the region of £1billion, while he estimated a new stadium and regeneration project would be £2billion. He saw no reason why state funding should not partially cover the cost of the bigger project, which he believes could transform the area around the stadium.

    United’s existing leadership have been working alongside Trafford Council on its Trafford Wharfside development plan, and council leader Tom Ross was excited by Ratcliffe’s vision.

    “We’ve got two visions that are coming together – a potential brand new stadium as discussed by Sir Jim, and also the vision we have for housing regeneration, bringing this area back to life,” Ross told BBC Radio Manchester on Thursday.

    “There’s a lot of excitement in Manchester United about this as a key partner of ours. We look forward to working together to deliver those plans.”

    Ratcliffe said on Wednesday that a task force – which could include former United defender Gary Neville – was being formed to consider the feasibility of the new stadium project. The PA news agency understands Trafford Council expects to be invited to join too.

    United have been urged to actively involve local residents and small business owners in their plans as they consider how to proceed.

    Dr Tom Bason, a sports legacy and football finance expert at Coventry University, highlighted research which found such groups had not been properly consulted in previous stadium-led regeneration projects, and ended up being priced out of the area.

    “(Proper consultation) is the sort of thing that needs to happen from the start otherwise you do end up with this sort of displacement that we saw around the Olympic Stadium (in east London),” Dr Bason told PA.

    “It’s not always intentional, but if you see house prices or rent increases going up 20, 30, 40 per cent, although you might not be kicked out because your house or flat is getting knocked down, you might still have to leave that area because you can’t afford to live there any more.

    “The same happens with businesses – multinationals start coming in, you start to get chains of coffee shops rather than a local café for example.

    “It’s not always intentional but if these sort of local community groups, residents and businesses aren’t part of the process, it is what happens every time.”

  • Sir Jim Ratcliffe outlines plans for success and glamour at Manchester United Sir Jim Ratcliffe outlines plans for success and glamour at Manchester United

    Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe has set out his vision for bringing some of the Eric Cantona glamour and swagger back to Old Trafford.

    The 71-year-old Ineos founder and chairman wants the club he has supported since the age of six to be seriously challenging their “noisy” north-west neighbours Manchester City and Liverpool for domestic and European titles within three seasons, and “knock them both off their perch”.

    In a wide-ranging briefing, Ratcliffe also:

    :: Outlined his hope to either redevelop Old Trafford at a cost of around £1billion, or build a new £2billion stadium with state support that could host England matches, FA Cup finals and Champions League finals.

    :: Admitted Dan Ashworth would be “a very good addition” to the Manchester United leadership as sporting director and said it would be “absurd” if he remained on gardening leave after his departure from Newcastle.

    :: Pledged that a fresh decision would be taken on Mason Greenwood’s future.

    :: Joked about whether Qatari businessman Sheikh Jassim, his long-time rival for full control of United, even existed.

    Ratcliffe, who by the end of the year will hold a 28.9 per cent stake in United and whose Ineos company now controls football operations at Old Trafford, conducted the interview with a bust wearing a United number seven shirt stationed behind him, collar turned up in the fashion of the club’s hero of the 1990s Eric Cantona.

    “(Cantona) was the catalyst for change in Sir Alex Ferguson’s era … and then that sort of kickstarted everything off. He was the sort of talisman,” Ratcliffe said.

    “There has always been a bit of glamour attached to Manchester United which has been lacking a bit in the last few years. You’ve had George Best, Bobby Charlton, Eric the King for a while.

    “At the end of the day we are in the entertainment business. So that’s why you don’t want to watch bland football or characterless football.

    “And to be honest, since Christmas, with the young lads, they have played some fantastic football.

    “There have been some great matches. I can’t remember many matches at the beginning of the season I was really excited by but since Christmas we have played some really good football and there has been a bit of glamour attached to some of these footballers on the pitch, and we have really enjoyed it.

    “The three young lads (Rasmus Hojlund, Alejandro Garnacho and Kobbie Mainoo) sitting on the hoarding at the side – that was a good picture. So I think that’s the ‘Eric’ point really. We are cognizant of the fact you do need a bit of glamour in this.”

    Ratcliffe says improving the club’s record on recruitment is “top of the list” of things to get right, and publicly stated his club’s interest in Dan Ashworth, who has been placed on gardening leave by Newcastle after expressing his desire to leave the Tyneside club.

    “I think it’d be a very good addition to Manchester United, but he (Ashworth) needs to decide whether he’s going to make that jump,” Ratcliffe said.

    “We’ve obviously had words with Newcastle. They clearly would be disappointed to lose Dan. I understand why they would be disappointed to lose Dan but but then you can’t equally criticise Dan because it is a transient industry.

    “So we’ll have to see how it unfolds.”

    Ratcliffe said it would be “a bit silly” if it took £20million to secure Ashworth’s services, and added: “What I do think is completely absurd is suggesting that a man who’s really good at his job, sits in his garden for one and a half years.”

    Also key to the transformation as Ratcliffe sees it is a redeveloped Old Trafford or a new stadium built partially with state support.

    Ratcliffe said a taskforce would be set up to look at the feasibility of the latter option and agreed former Manchester United defender Gary Neville would be an “obvious” person to include on it.

    Ratcliffe sees no issue with one of the world’s richest clubs in United seeking state support for such a project.

    “The people in the north pay their taxes like the people in the south pay their taxes,” he said.

    “But where’s the national stadium for football? It’s in the south. Where’s the national stadium for rugby? It’s in the south. Where’s the national stadium for tennis? It’s in the south. Where’s the national concert stadium? It’s the O2, it’s in the south. Where’s the Olympic Village? It’s in the south.

    “All of this talk about levelling up and the Northern Powerhouse… where is the stadium in the north? How many Champions Leagues has the north-west won and how many Champions Leagues has London won? The answer to that is the north-west has won 10 – Liverpool have won more than us – and London has won two.

    “Where do you have to go if you get to the semi-final of the FA Cup and you’re a northern club? You have to schlep down to London, don’t you?

    “People in the north pay their taxes and there is an argument that you could think about a more ambitious project in the north which would be fitting for England, for the Champions League final or the FA Cup final and act as a catalyst to regenerate southern Manchester, which has got quite significant history in the UK.”

  • Man Utd will make fresh decision on Mason Greenwood future – Sir Jim Ratcliffe Man Utd will make fresh decision on Mason Greenwood future – Sir Jim Ratcliffe

    Sir Jim Ratcliffe says Manchester United will make a fresh decision on the future of forward Mason Greenwood and will “justify it one way or the other”.

    Greenwood, who is on loan at Spanish side Getafe, was suspended by United on January 30, 2022 over allegations relating to a young woman after images and videos were posted online.

    The now 22-year-old faced charges including attempted rape and assault but the Crown Prosecution Service announced in February last year that the case had been discontinued.

    Reports last year that United were planning to retain him following an internal investigation were met by public outcry and Ratcliffe acknowledges that a decision will have to be made when Greenwood returns about what happens next – but insists nothing has been finalised yet.

    “It’s quite clear we have to make a decision. There is no decision that’s been made,” Ratcliffe said at a media briefing to mark the completion of his purchase of a minority stake in United which delegates control of football operations to his company Ineos.

    Asked asked if the Greenwood situation would be a “fresh decision”, Ratcliffe said: “Yeah we will. Absolutely. We will make a decision, and we will justify it one way or the other.”

    Ratcliffe added: “He’s on loan obviously, but he’s not the only one – we’ve got one or two footballers that we have to deal with and we have to make a decision on, so we will do that.

    “The process will be – understand the facts, not the hype, and then try and come to a fair decision on the basis of values, which is basically: is he a good guy or not?

    “Could he play sincerely for Manchester United, (play) well and we’d be comfortable with it and the fans would be comfortable with it.”

    Greenwood is under contract at United until the summer of 2025.

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