Exclusive: Varane reveals FA Cup ambitions
Raphael Varane is back and feeling good after his injury lay-off and the Manchester United defender can't wait for his first Emirates FA Cup experience with the club on Monday night.
The Reds host Aston Villa in the third-round tie at Old Trafford and Varane is hoping to continue his run in the side following his return to fitness.
A winner of the famous domestic cup in Spain - the Copa Del Rey - the French international is relishing the chance to chase the English equivalent. During our exclusive interview, Varane said he and his team-mates are determined to put a strong FA Cup run together...
What did you know about the FA Cup before joining Manchester United and do any previous FA Cup ties stick out in your memory?
"I know it’s an important competition and part of the history of the club, and I know it’s exciting for fans."
How does it feel ahead of playing your first FA Cup game for the club, and are you hungry to add to your domestic cup win in 2014 (Copa Del Rey) during your time here?
"I think it’s always exciting and it’s another challenge and a new competition [for me]. When it’s a new competition [and the start of the competition] you always want to win it and to feel the challenge. The most important thing is you want to win."
How unique are these types of competitions in your eyes, where clubs from the whole football pyramid can compete?
"In a cup like this you know that you don’t have another game to win if you don’t win this one so you have to perform and leave all your energy on the pitch. That’s a big challenge and it’s why cup games are exciting because both teams will leave a lot of energy on the pitch. We are looking forward to it."
How do you think the FA Cup will compare to the cup competitions in Spain and France?
"I think it’s important in Spain and France and every year you can see surprises in these competitions. I think for the fans these are great competitions."
You played in some big cup ties in Spain during your time at Real Madrid and experienced winning the Copa del Rey – what are you memories of that?
"It was a great experience. It’s always special to play a final and if you win it it’s much better of course! The feeling is great."
What makes cup matches different from a player’s perspective and does that knock-out aspect bring the kind of pressure and excitement you enjoy?
"Of course. We enjoy the pressure and the result is very important because you don’t have another game after this one. It’s 90 minutes or more [with extra-time] and you have to be ready for this challenge and prepare physically and mentally to play a good game."
After the disappointment of going out early in the Carabao Cup, how determined is everyone to have a good run in the FA Cup, knowing a good cup run is always important for overall momentum?
"Yes I think it’s really important for us. We want to make the fans happy and obviously we want to win. Our mentality is just to be focused on our performance and to be ready for this game."
What are you expecting from Aston Villa? They have been picking up some good results, so how they will approach things when they come to Old Trafford on Monday night?
"I think they’re a really good team and we have to be prepared to play against a team who know how to play on the counterattack and who play well with the ball. So physically and tactically… everything will be important in this game because we know we face a good team."
In terms of your fitness, how are you feeling since your recent return to the team?
"I feel good. I feel better every day and I want to stay like that and improve and help the team."
Here at United, who has helped you on your journey back to full fitness? Are there any members of staff behind the scenes you'd like to thank?
"I have to say the medical team and the physios have helped me a lot and I’m very happy to be back and I’d like to say thank you to them for the help with my recovery."
How do you balance your desire to return as fast as possible with the necessary recovery to return stronger than ever?
"I think you have to listen to how you feel and listen to the medical advice as well, that’s very important. Obviously you want to come back quickly and as soon as possible, but you have to be sure to be ready for the competitions."
In terms of the support you’ve had from the fans since your return, how would you describe that? They’re clearly delighted to see you back and has that meant a lot to you?
"Yes that gives you even more motivation. Obviously we want to play football for the fans and for ourselves. I always want to be on the pitch and I was waiting to get back to play in front of our fans who have supported me. I wanted to be ready and to make sure I came back at the right moment and I feel good."
How important will the fans’ support be on Monday night at Old Trafford?
"Our supporters are always very good and for sure they will push us to do our best on the pitch."
Finally, at the start of this new year, how do you look ahead to 2022 in terms of ambitions for you personally and the team?
"I think for this year we just want to do our best on the pitch and to make the fans happy."