Farewell Rapha

When Raphael Varane signed for Manchester United and was unveiled before a roaring Old Trafford crowd in 2021, it signaled what was sure to be the start of the club’s renaissance after a near-decade of false starts and dawns.

When Raphael Varane played for Manchester United, he often showed his class and abilities, demonstrating the type of form that made him one of the best players in the world and the first true Rolls Royce defender at the club since Rio Ferdinand.

Unfortunately for both Varane and the club, the former didn’t happen and the latter didn’t happen enough.

On Tuesday, the inevitable happened. Varane and Manchester United announced they would part ways after the season.

“Despite the fact we have had a difficult season, I am very positive for the future,” Varane, ever the team player, said in a video. “The new owners are coming with a clear plan and a great strategy.”

The writing had been on the wall for a while. Out of contract at the end of the season, the club had already declined to trigger his one-year option. Erik ten Hag, reportedly, had concerns about the Frenchman, who has been increasingly injury prone and has spent long periods of time on the sidelines.

It’s a shame. Varane joining the club seemed like destiny— the fulfillment of a long chase that started when Sir Alex Ferguson nearly signed him in 2011. Unlike some of United’s other big name signings, Varane seemed genuinely happy and proud to be at the club.

On the pitch, when he was healthy, he generally delivered. Like all center halves, he had the occasional bad match. But he also showed his class and form at times — especially when he partnered Lisandro Martinez last season. That duo evoked comparisons to Ferdinand and Vidic and it’s probably no coincidence that this year’s horrendous defensive showing by the club coincided with their run of injuries and loss of form.

But mostly, he brought gravitas that had been lacking from the team for a long time. Unlike many of his teammates and predecessors, he actually knew what it was like to play in big matches and win major trophies. Casemiro got the headlines, but Varane was just as instrumental to United’s League Cup win last season, bringing a winning attitude and professionalism that had been sorely lacking in recent years. There was a reason why he was nicknamed “Champions League Varane.”

So maybe it’s fitting that, with United looking at a possible European shutout next season, Varane won’t be there to share in the indignity. Surely, he won’t the last big name to leave United this summer. One step forward, two steps back — which seems to be our M.O. in the post-Ferguson era.

“I will see you at Old Trafford to say goodbye in the last home game this season,” he said. “And it’s going to be a very emotional day for me, for sure.”

It’ll also be an emotional day for United fans, many of whom continue to hold Varane in high regard and always will. Getting to say goodbye to one of their favorites will also give United fans something to cheer about in what has, otherwise, been a disastrous season. Our recent form has been dire and currently sit in eighth place, which would be our worst finish in the Premier League era. We’re also a week or so away from losing in the FA Cup Final by City for the second consecutive year.

Happy trails, Rapha. Sorry we couldn’t win more for you. That, unfortunately, seems to be a common sentiment over this last decade.

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