Raphael Varane

How Sir Alex nearly signed Varane in 2011

Sunday 15 August 2021 13:00

He was a player who had Sir Alex Ferguson sprinting through Euston station to board a train to France; now he's a Manchester United player.

Raphael Varane completed his move to Old Trafford this week a decade after our great manager chased his signature, becoming Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's third signing of the summer.

The boss recalled Sir Alex's Varane interest recently, telling reporters in July that the French defender is a "proven winner" that United have "followed for many, many years," ever since "Sir Alex was very, very close to signing him."

In May 2011, The Guardian reported that United were "poised to sign Lens prospect Raphael Varane," while the Daily Mail claimed United had 'beaten Arsenal in race to sign highly-rated French defender Varane.’

In his 2015 book, 'Leading', Sir Alex Ferguson remembered the events of 2011 when he'd been keen to bring Varane to the club.

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“In 2011, I hurtled down on the train from Euston to Lille to sign the young French defender Raphael Varane," Ferguson wrote.

“David Gill was getting into the finer points of the contract with Lens, Varane’s club, when Zinedine Zidane got wind of this and somehow scooped him up for Real Madrid from under our noses.

“I don’t think Jose Mourinho, who was managing Real Madrid, had even seen Varane play.”

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It was Zidane's words that convinced Varane. The then-18-year-old defender had even spoken about joining Manchester United, saying "they are a team that is one of the very best in the world; a very big club that has very high requirements."

And yet, his move to Real Madrid was soon completed, Zidane's influence the key decider in the transfer. After all, Varane hadn't seen Ferguson hit the back of the net in the Scottish Premiership for Dunfermline or Rangers but one Hampden Park goal he did know of was Zidane's stunning Champions League final strike in 2002.

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Varane's worn the shirt before, and it has been filled by some stellar Reds talent, too.

Varane now finally joins United aged 28 rather than 18 and with unrivalled experience of elite football under his belt. The winner of four UEFA Champions Leagues and a FIFA World Cup, Varane will act as a role model for much of the United squad.

Much of his time in the Spanish capital was spent playing alongside Sergio Ramos, a trophy-laden partnership equivalent to that of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic on these shores. There are few more scrutinised roles in football than that of centre-back at United or Real Madrid, and Varane has constantly proved himself since he left Lens.

One of Sir Alex's most famous quotes was that "attacks wins you games, defence wins you titles." United fans know all too well the truth of that and will hope to have it proved once again when Varane pulls on the red shirt for the first time in the coming weeks.

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