Raphael Varane cannot be held solely responsible for his struggles since joining Manchester United last year, says former Red Devils defender Rio Ferdinand.
According to Ferdinand, United’s “zero functionality” organisation under managers Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick was a crucial factor behind the 2018 World Cup winner’s poor first season in England.
Now the United backline could be set for an important overhaul under new boss Erik ten Hag, Ferdinand believes.
Four-time Champions League winner Varane played 29 times in his debut season with United after arriving from Real Madrid, contributing to just six clean sheets as the Red Devils posted their worst Premier League points tally (58), finishing sixth.
Only four teams – relegated duo Norwich City (six) and Watford (four) as well as Leeds United (five) and Leicester City (seven) – kept fewer than the eight Premier League clean sheets managed by United last term.
While Ferdinand noted Varane has not performed to an elite level at Old Trafford, he hit out at United’s lack of structure last season, comparing it to that of a youth team.
“I think he went from one team [Madrid], [where] the honours tell you it was a functioning team, functioning at the top level, with all the players playing to the maximum consistently,” Ferdinand told his YouTube channel FIVE.
“He’s then gone to an absolute reverse situation where the team has zero functionality, no confidence, no guidance and no structure. Going in there, he’s probably going, ‘I have not seen this since youth football’.
“To go from that world-class culture to what he’s in with United is a huge shift, and he’s like a rabbit in the headlights.
“He hasn’t been the player we expected him to be when he came here, he would tell you that, and he’ll be saying, ‘I’ve got to up my level next year, I need help, I need my team-mates’.
“You need team-mates to be the best; [whether you are, Lionel] Messi, [Cristiano] Ronaldo, [Zinedine] Zidane, Ronaldinho, these players do not do what they do without their team-mates.”
The appointment of former Ajax boss Ten Hag has raised hopes of an improved campaign next time around, with United expected to make significant efforts to bolster their squad in the transfer window.
Ajax defender Jurrien Timber is one player to have been heavily linked with United in recent weeks, and Ferdinand believes the club’s new boss will want to make changes to the Red Devils’ leaky backline.
“I’m interested to see what Ten Hag does in that area,” he added. “They’re talking about the young lad at Ajax, Timber, who’s a centre-half, a small centre-half.
“I’ll be interested to see what happens with Varane, [Victor] Lindelof, [Harry] Maguire, and Eric Bailly as well. I think one or two of them are going to go.”
United’s tally of 57 Premier League goals conceded last season was their worst on record in the competition, while they also failed to record a positive goal difference for the first time since the 1989-90 season.