Man Utd star’s ‘strained relationship’ with Ten Hag sees him ‘fall out of favour’ with Maguire preferred

Jason Soutar
Manchester United players Casemiro and Raphael Varane look dejected after conceding in the FA Cup final.
Casemiro and Raphael Varane look dejected after conceding in the FA Cup final.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag’s relationship with Raphael Varane has ‘become strained in recent weeks’, according to reports.

Varane joined the Red Devils from Real Madrid for a fee in the region of £43million in 2021.

He has been unable to replicate his Madrid form in Manchester, however, and has greatly struggled with injuries, missing 41 of United’s 87 Premier League matches since joining.

The four-time Champions League winner’s first season was relatively poor and under Ten Hag in 2022/23, his form improved.

Varane formed a decent partnership alongside Argentine World Cup winner Lisandro Martinez, who has only played six of his side’s last 29 games in the Premier League due to a recurring metatarsal problem.

More fitness problems for the Frenchman has made Ten Hag’s job a lot more difficult and the surprise summer signing of Jonny Evans has quickly paid off due to the defensive injuries in the Dutchman’s squad.

Now the favourite to be the next Premier League manager to lose their job after Wednesday’s Champions League defeat to FC Copenhagen, Ten Hag is under a severe amount of pressure to get a result against Luton Town on Saturday.

Evans and Harry Maguire – Leicester City’s centre-back partnership in 2019 – started in Denmark but the former was replaced by Varane early on as he joined the aforementioned Martinez on the injury list.

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Despite getting the nod ahead of Victor Lindelof following Evans’ injury, it has been reported by The Telegraph that Varane is unlikely to start against Luton.

The report claims that Ten Hag and Varane’s relationship has ‘become strained in recent weeks’ despite the Dutch manager being ‘regularly heard praising the ex-Real Madrid defender’s leadership and mentality last season’.

Ten Hag actually denied a rift between himself and the player in his pre-match press conference on Friday, insisting that it is “absolutely not” the case.

Furthermore, the report says the former Ajax boss and Varane ‘had a discussion in the wake of United’s 3-0 defeat to Manchester City a fortnight ago when the manager claimed he had been dropped for “tactical” reasons at a time when the defender was said to still be wrestling with a fitness issue’.

Varane has now ‘fallen out of favour – the extent to which may become more apparent against Luton,’ it is added.

On Friday, Ten Hag also discussed how Varane and Maguire struggle to play together in defence, hinting that it is a battle between the two players for the right-centre-back spot.

Asked if it was a case of one or the other, the Dutchman replied: “Ideally, yeah, but there are moments in certain games where they can play together and they have already proven they can do it.

“But the build up is not that fluid when one of them is playing from the left centre-back position. Licha [Martinez] and Luke Shaw can obviously but Jonny Evans and Victor Lindelof, they are right-footed but they can play really comfortably with their left and make the right angles, then you can construct a better formation where you can start to play.”

Man Utd defender Raphael Varane hugs Erik ten Hag

Another player who is discussed in-depth is Casemiro, who also joined United from Real Madrid, but a year later than Varane did.

After chasing Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong all summer in 2022, Ten Hag turned his attention to the experienced Brazilian midfielder, landing him for £70m on a four-year contract.

This deal raised a few eyebrows given the fact Casemiro was 30 when he signed, but he enjoyed a stellar debut campaign at Old Trafford, starring as they finished third in the Premier League, won the Carabao Cup, and reached the final of the FA Cup.

Casemiro has started this season very poorly, however, and there are some concerns over his long-term ability to thrive in the Premier League.

The report claims that the 31-year-old’s ‘reduced mobility was becoming a worry even before he succumbed to an injury last month’.

His poor form and ‘reduced mobility’ means United are likely to fork out a big transfer fee for a younger version of Casemiro, while a new central defender is expected to be a priority.

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