Raphael Varane: The full interview
Soon after being unveiled as a Manchester United player in front of the Old Trafford faithful, Raphael Varane also took time out to speak exclusively to us about his delight at becoming a Red.
In a fascinating sit-down chat with reporter Steve Bennett, Varane – who spoke perfect English throughout – reflected on his excitement at joining United, discussed his winning mentality, his friendship with Paul Pogba and why he's determined to help the Reds be successful...
Firstly Raphael, welcome to Manchester United. How does it feel to be able to call yourself a Manchester United player?
“Thank you. I’m very happy and very excited to start this new journey for me. It was a very good adventure with my old club, but now it’s a new start for me and I’m very happy to be here.”
You learnt Spanish as soon as you arrived at Madrid. How is your English – it sounds great?!
“It’s difficult for me to do this interview in English, but I have to try! [Smiles] I think it’s very important to be close to the fans because we have the same objective; we have to fight together and it’s important for me to be comfortable with my team-mates and with the coach. It’s important for me, for my life and for my professional life as well.”
Talk us through the timeline of your move – when did you realise that a move here to Manchester United was going to happen for you?
“There had been a lot of rumours and a lot of people speaking about me and Manchester United since 2011, when Sir Alex Ferguson came to my mother’s house. When it was real, that was when I spoke with my club, and I felt it was a real opportunity to play in the Premier League for Manchester United.”
What feels right about this move for you now, personally and professionally?
“I think it was a good moment because of a lot of things, but I think the most important one is it’s a new challenge and it’s a big motivation to start in a new league in a big club like Manchester United. This opportunity was amazing for me, so I chose this change for me and my family. They have come with me. You feel when things are a good moment and this was the right moment.”
You faced Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand at Old Trafford back in 2013 – two of our most legendary centre-backs. Were there any players from United that you looked up to or admired during your younger career?
“Of course, Vidic and Ferdinand were legends. I remember players like Cristiano, Giggs and Beckham also. They are legends and I’m very proud to be part of this family.”
Have you spoken to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer much about what he’s building here and how you fit into this side?
“Yes, of course. It was very important for me to know exactly about the philosophy and what the challenges and objectives are, and the ambitions – that was very important for me. And I feel a real determination and an ambition to work very hard and to try to do everything that is possible to win trophies. That motivates me.”
Luke Shaw and Harry Maguire had fantastic Euros for England – how excited are you to be linking up with those guys and all our other great defenders here?
“I think they are very good players and I’m very happy to be a new player in this team because there is a lot of talent. I’m sure when you don’t win a trophy and you lost in a final then the next time you are more motivated and you want to win more than ever.”
If you had to describe yourself as a player in three words, what would they be?
“Hard-worker, respectful and ambitious.”
You were the youngest captain of the French national team – what kind of leader are you and what kind of leadership will you bring to Manchester United?
“I think I’m very calm and, with my experience, I know when to shout when it’s necessary for the team. But, in general, I prefer to speak with my team-mates and speak about tactics, and to be comfortable with my team-mates before a game and make sure we are ready to fight and be in a positive mood.”
You’re close with Paul Pogba – what is he like as a friend and as a team-mate?
“I think Paul is very positive and he has a very good energy; he motivates players in the dressing room and on the pitch with his energy. We are different but we are very complementary, and it’s important in the team to have different types of leaders and characters.”
How excited are you to play with Paul here in the Premier League?
“I’m very happy. I’ve known him for a very long time, we started together with the French national team and he’s a great player. I think he’s ambitious and me too, so we are ready to work hard and to do all we can to win trophies.”
Your family are obviously very important to you personally and professionally – how excited are they to see you here at Manchester United?
“They are very excited. It’s a new challenge for my family too and we were ready for this change. They are always with me and supporting me and this new adventure is for us together, it’s not me alone. For my balance my family are very important.”
Your son is just coming up to the age where he can really enjoy football and cheer you on at Old Trafford – you must be really excited about the prospect of that?
“Yes, absolutely. He loves sports, but he’s crazy for football with his magic left foot! He plays and enjoys football.”
Winning the World Cup is the pinnacle for many players. For you, how has that driven you on to further success and to want to win more things?
“Honestly, just after the World Cup you have a moment to think ‘wow’! And after that, then you think what is the next step. I think when you win people are expecting you to show your level and that you are a winner and there are a lot of expectations after that. The motivation is to demonstrate that you are a winner and that you are still a winner and you want to be a winner.”
Speaking of winning, you have four Champions League winners’ medals – how does that motivate you and did one of those mean more to you?
“I think the winning mentality is there every day. When you win I think you are more hungry and you want to demonstrate that it wasn’t casual; it was because you worked hard and made a lot of sacrifices and because you deserve it. The more victories you have, I think it’s more motivation also.”
Finally, you had a taste of the Old Trafford fans when you stepped out before the Leeds game – do you have a message for them?
“Yes, I came here because I wanted new emotions and it was exactly what I expected and bigger. It was massive, a great moment, and I want to say to the fans thank you, and I will do my best to leave everything on the pitch.”