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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans for Man Utd centre-backs after Raphael Varane transfer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's plans for Man Utd centre-backs after Raphael Varane transfer

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knows that the arrival of Raphael Varane at Manchester United means that there will be increased scrutiny on the club’s defence in the coming season, but he’s got a plan.

Varane has been one of the most highly-regarded defenders in Europe across much of the last decade, and with a fee around his neck which could end up totalling £40million, of course the World Cup winner will go straight into the side when he is fully fit and up to speed

Just when that is will be up for debate, with the start of the Premier League season just over two weeks away and Varane forced to remain in Madrid for the time being due to travel restrictions, Solskjaer would surely like to have a long look at the defender on the training ground given his lack of pre-season action.

United might have finished second last season, but the 44 goals they conceded was the most in top four, and only two fewer than 11th placed Aston Villa.

Solskjaer needs to sort things out at the back, and his plan is coming to fruition.

The undisputed first-choice pairing
With Varane comes the certainty that Solskjaer, and all of us, will know just who his first choice centre-back pairing will be.

It will be the Frenchman and captain Harry Maguire who form a partnership worth around £120million, and although there will surely be teething problems as the World Cup winner gets up to speed, in Maguire he’ll have a steady partner who only enhanced his reputation during the summer.


The Englishman may be right footed by he’ll have no problem playing on the left of the two, with Luke Shaw outside him.

Varane can then play on the right next to Aaron Wan-Bissaka, or maybe even Kieran Trippier at times.

Plenty of options

Indeed, Wan-Bissaka will be an interesting player to keep track of throughout the season.

If United do sign Trippier then that opens up the possibilities of playing the former Crystal Palace man at centre-back, a position that he certainly has the attributes for and could end up being his long-term place.

His tackling and recovery pace make him a natural fit, and it might well be that Solskjaer gives him a go there in the odd game.

Wan-Bissaka could be used at centre-back

Elsewhere, Victor Lindelof has probably only ever been good enough to be a back-up centre-back for a club of United’s ambitions, while Eric Bailly signed a four-year extension to his deal in April and retains the trust of the club.

The forgotten man
Phil Jones hasn’t kicked a ball for United since before the pandemic, with his last appearance coming in the 6-1 FA Cup win over Tranmere in January 2020, when he also scored.

Jones has two years left on his United contract, and with his homegrown status counting in his favour, Solskjaer seems more than happy to keep him around.

Speaking after the Brentford draw, he said: “Phil Jones is due to start training over the weekend.

“Big plus for him. Great to see him ready to train again. Hope he gets some game time soon, either under 23s or behind closed doors.”

Those on the fringes
So all-in-all it looks to be a season in which United’s centre-back options are going to be fairly experienced, which means something has to give for the younger players.

On Wednesday Solskjaer admitted that Axel Tuanzebe is now likely to leave on loan after Varane’s arrival, with the now 23-year-old surely keen to get a full season of football under his belt.

Teden Mengi is another who would perhaps benefit from a loan move, with the 19-year-old having played nine games for Derby at the end of last season.

The teenager is highly-rated, but it would be tough to see where he gets his chances now.

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