Manchester United captain Harry Maguire is excited to play alongside Raphael Varane and believes the natural winner’s mentality can help boost their quest for silverware this season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side made light work of a disrupted pre-season and their absent players when kicking off the 2021-22 campaign with a bang against old foes Leeds on Saturday lunchtime.
Old Trafford’s first full house in 17 months enjoyed a day to remember, with Bruno Fernandes’ hat-trick helping to inspire a 5-1 victory against Leeds on a day when supporters were introduced to their newest star.
United announced just before kick-off that they had finally completed the signing of Varane from Real Madrid, with the 28-year-old paraded on the pitch before the team ran amok.
“To bring players into this club, obviously of his calibre as well, it’s going to be really, really exciting,” United skipper Maguire told the PA news agency.
“Everyone in the squad is obviously looking forward to working with him.
“I think one thing that it does is it boosts our defensive options. We’ve got an amazing number of centre-backs now at this club, all international players who are all proven in the Premier League.
“You’ve seen again how well Victor (Lindelof) played today. Victor has not just shown that today, but he’s shown it over the last two seasons while I’ve played with him.
“He’s an excellent footballer so, like I say, to have this amount of number of top centre-backs is great for the competition for places. It’ll make people push further, push harder and it’s exciting.”
Varane certainly takes United’s defensive quality up a level and the 2018 World Cup winner also brings a winning mentality to a club striving to win their first silverware under Solskjaer.
“I think you’ve seen what he’s won over his career,” Maguire said of the four-time Champions League winner.
“He’s played in some of the top teams about – the French squad and the Real Madrid team – and he’s won absolutely everything.
“I think he’ll bring that winning mentality to the club and he’ll also bring his footballing ability to the club.
“Like I said, bringing players in is great for the squad. It lifts the squad, it’s great for the competition for the squad – not just as a centre-back but just in any position. We thrive off it, that’s how we play.
“At one of the biggest clubs in the world you don’t expect to have an easy ride and have no competition for places.
“We know at this club we need to challenge for titles and challenge for trophies.
“We look at one step at a time, one game at a time. Every game is so important if you want to get to where you want to get to and be successful.
“But of course we want to challenge for the big trophies and the title. That’s the aim at this club.
“I think you’ve seen how much everyone’s strengthened in the summer and everyone’s going to probably improve, but so have we.”
United have added two elite players this summer, with Varane following Jadon Sancho into the club.
The Old Trafford giants finally got their man after striking a £73million deal with Borussia Dortmund for the 21-year-old, who made his debut off the bench in the second half against Leeds.
“I think you’ve seen in little glimpses the talent, the skills, goals, assists,” England team-mate Maguire said. “He’s obviously going to be a top player.
“He’s still young as well but he’s done a lot in the game. He brings that winning mentality to us as well, which is really important.
“But he’s an exceptional talent and I think he’s had a really stop-start pre-season, so I think he’ll work hard obviously over the next few weeks to get to match fitness and he’ll be there soon.”
With Sancho’s fitness improving and numerous players to return, it is little wonder skipper Maguire thinks “there’s still a lot more to come from” United.
“It was amazing,” he said after playing in front of Old Trafford’s first sell-out crowd since March 2020. “To get the fans back in the stadium, it’s what football is all about.
“You felt it before the game in the warm-ups, even the build-up to the game.
“It’s what we all strive for. We all want to play for the fans, we all want to score goals in front of fans.
“I think it shows how much we missed them last season when you start and see the atmosphere in the stadium today.
“The perfect start against obviously Leeds United as well. To stick five past them we’re really pleased.”
Fernandes put the hosts ahead at half-time, only for Leeds right-back Luke Ayling to level with a 25-yard stunner minutes after the break.
But Marcelo Bielsa’s men soon unravelled, with Fernandes completing a hat-trick that was complemented by Mason Greenwood and Fred goals.
“We’ve been beaten here last year (6-2),” Ayling said. “It’s nothing new to us, we came back from that and did alright until the end of last season.
“We’ll go back, have a look at it, get a few players back in the team and we’ll go again.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe