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“Varane’s Downturn, Clark’s Highlight, and Football League’s Style Shift: A Comprehensive Debrief”

In his most recent piece, Adam Bate discusses Raphael Varane’s slumping performance at Manchester United, another heartwarming tale at Luton Town, and the reasons Football League teams are currently searching for a different kind of manager.

Raphael Varane’s potential transfer to Bayern Munich is unexpected, but not because Manchester United would be open to the idea. Rather, it was expected that the defender would head to Saudi Arabia.

Varane’s sudden decline in form has been concerning. I was present for both of his most recent starts as a United player—the home loss to Galatasaray and the lucky victory against Copenhagen that predicted their failure in Denmark.

Varane has earned his reputation. He has won the World Cup and the Champions League four times. He ought to be in his peak at thirty. However, as Indiana Jones famously said, “Mileage is more important than years, honey.” Damage has taken a physical toll.

He’s been called a Rolls-Royce of a defender on a regular basis, but perhaps Ferrari would have been a better description. He won the Champions League finals with the elegant Sergio Ramos. Varane was the one whose quickness saved them from danger.

There’s a slight sputter from that engine. What’s left is a surprisingly weak passing game that lacks the electrifying velocity of the past. Aware of this uncertainty, his opponents are choosing to put pressure on him. Against Copenhagen, he was exposed late on, and it wasn’t an isolated incident.

As United’s right-sided center back, he is currently below Harry Maguire, and there are at least four players vying for the left defensive position above him. Given that Casemiro’s stock has also dropped, this begs severe concerns about United’s rebuilding efforts.

The two former Real Madrid players joined on large salaries, with Casemiro receiving special recognition for his performance in his debut campaign. Both are currently dealing with injuries, are past 30, and United appears to be much behind their competitors.

They did help deliver a Carabao Cup but more was expected. With Christian Eriksen at a similar phase in his career and even Bruno Fernandes now 29, United’s squad profile remains a concern. The ‘quick fix’ has taken a long time. It will need fixing again.

With Varane, it feels like his spectacular career is entering its final phase at 30, but a word for Jordan Clark, who has finally reached the pinnacle at the exact same age. The Luton midfielder came off the bench to make his Premier League debut at Old Trafford.

Speaking to him a little over three years ago, Clark had made only one start in the Championship at that stage. He had since moved to Accrington Stanley and was dreaming of getting back to that level but was out of contract and facing an uncertain future.

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