Raphael Varane has studied Man Utd defence – and his task is crystal clear

Raphael Varane has studied Manchester United defence – and his task is crystal clear.

The Real Madrid centre-back is on the verge of signing for the Red Devils, with the two clubs making progress during talks over the weekend.

Having long been coveted by United, the 28-year-old is regarded as one of the world’s best defenders.

Usually a job for team analysts, Varane has took it upon himself to identify what his challenge will be if he does indeed end up at Old Trafford.

The Manchester Evening News reports that the Frenchman has already made arrangements to travel to the city.

The local outlet also claims that Varane has looked at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s defence from last season and hopes to remedy their set-piece woes.

Solskjaer’s side shipped 18 goals in 2020-21 from dead-ball situations, with crosses being a constant threat to the Old Trafford rearguard thanks to the lack of physicality – barring Harry Maguire – in the back line.

Villarreal also took the lead through a free-kick in the Europa League final when the Red Devils were without Maguire, which United went on to lose via penalties.

In January, Solskjaer admitted regarding their troubles: "That’s a worry, of course.

"It’s a worry when you concede goals but we have defended really well at times."

His words came after the Red Devils lost the Carabao Cup semi-final to their cross-city rivals.

"Against Man City when you defend as well as you do in open play and you don’t really concede too many chances you’re disappointed [with what happened as the Citizens scored the only goal of the game from a free-kick]," the Norweigan said.

"In big games against good players and good teams we lose that bit of focus.

"It’s a big part of football – so many goals are conceded from set plays," he added.

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"We do have a good record of winning the first ball, but when we don’t it seems like it goes in every time."

Solskjaer has already brought in a new coach to help with set-pieces in the form of former Chelsea youth boss Eric Ramsay, something he alluded to six months ago.

"It’s something that we have addressed, that we need to do better at; we seem to suffer [badly] from this," the 48-year-old explained.

"When we don’t get the first contact we have been punished quite severely and more often than anyone else."

The Telegraph are reporting that Ed Woodward and co are hoping to keep Varane’s fee below £48.2 million, with the France international’s contract at the Santiago Bernabeu expiring next summer.

Woodward is set to leave his role as executive vice-chairman at the end of the year but is still very much involved in negotiations.

Solskjaer recently signed a new three-year deal to remain United boss after Jadon Sancho arrived from Borussia Dortmund for £73 million last Friday.

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