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Erik ten Hag's Raphael Varane claim should be proved right by Man United ace in next few weeks

Manchester Evening News logo Manchester Evening News 22/03/2023 Dan Brown

Didier Deschamps' loss is certainly Erik ten Hag's gain. The fact that Manchester United centre-back Raphael Varane will not be in action for France during the March international break is a huge boost for the Reds, with the defender likely to play a crucial role in the latter stages of the season.

Varane called time on his international career in February, despite arguably being at the peak of his career and still two months shy of his 30th birthday. His decision came as a major shock to Deschamps and France, especially considering that he was expected to be named the country's new captain following the retirement of Hugo Lloris.

The France boss did not hold back when discussing his disappointment at Varane's retirement from international football, although he did admit that he respected the 29-year-old's decision. The defender played a key role in his country's run to the World Cup final in Qatar last year, where the holders were beaten on penalties by Argentina.

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He played every minute of France's triumphant 2018 World Cup campaign and was also key to France beating Spain to win the Nations League in 2021. Having won 93 caps for his country, it will have been a difficult call for Varane to make, but he suggested that the gruelling fixture schedule ultimately became unmanageable.

Ten Hag insisted that Varane's retirement from international football was "good news" for United. The Dutchman spoke about his respect for the defender's international career, before insisting that the Frenchman was "ambitious" and desperate to win trophies with the Reds.

"For United, I think it's good news," Ten Hag said. "Rapha achieved everything in terms of football club-wise but also with his nation it is incredible what he achieved, big respect and I am happy he puts all his energy and experience into the team.

"I can only express my deep respect for his career until now. But still there is a lot to come, he is ambitious, he wants to win at Manchester United."

Varane has certainly had his injury issues since signing from Real Madrid, and while he has been more robust this season, the 29-year-old has still missed seven matches through injury. The former Los Blancos ace has made 27 appearances in all competitions, but given how impressive he has been when lining up alongside Lisandro Martinez, United fans would have liked to have seen a bit more of the four-time Champions League winner.

However, with the centre-back having now stepped back from playing for France, he will have international breaks off - and the March Euro 2024 qualifiers mark the first batch of matches since Varane made the decision to retire.

Varane played 93 times for France. © 2022 DeFodi Images Varane played 93 times for France.

The positive feeling at Old Trafford will certainly have played some part in his decision, with United able to win three trophies this season and secure Champions League football for next term. He won his first piece of silverware with the Reds in February - playing in the Carabao Cup triumph over Newcastle - and he will be desperate for more.

Ten Hag previously spoke about Varane being enthused about the idea of winning trophies for this club. The defender now has the opportunity to rest his body and his mind, which can only be a positive for United as they enter the business end of the season - something he knows a lot about.

With 12 outfield players having recorded more appearances than Varane so far this campaign, the Frenchman has clearly struggled with his fitness on occasions this term. Now, though, he will go into the Reds' clash at Newcastle on April 2 having not played since the win over Fulham on March 19 - a two-week break.

Varane - when fit and available - could probably count on one hand the number of times he has had a two-week break during a campaign. He will have to ensure that he is ticking over on the training pitch, but with United potentially playing 19 more matches between now and the end of the season, Ten Hag could be about to see the real benefit of the defender retiring from international duty.



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