Raphael Varane is the most significant signing Manchester United have made in defence since Rio Ferdinand joined from Leeds in 2002, and the Frenchman's quality and leadership gives Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side an ideal platform to return to being the force they once were.
Varane, who has joined from Real Madrid for a reported fee of 50 million euros, brings with him a decade of experience at the most demanding club in the world and is exactly the type of world-class talent and personality United need to rise to the next level.
The Frenchman has won practically every trophy that matters in football, being a major figure in France's 2018 World Cup triumph and Real's four Champions League successes.
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He arrived at Real aged only 18 from Lens after being headhunted by Zinedine Zidane but showed remarkable maturity by quickly establishing himself in the team.
By the time of his second season at the club, a chaos-ridden campaign which proved to be Jose Mourinho's final term at the Bernabeu, he was one of the first names on the team-sheet, a calming presence on the ball and the perfect foil to his lionhearted centre-back partner Sergio Ramos.
Varane did not have the charisma or warrior-like tendencies of Ramos, but he offered a different type of leadership, doing his talking on the pitch with exceptional ball-carrying qualities and expert decision-making.
The Frenchman was less comfortable when Ramos was not around, though, such as when he made two unforgivable errors in last year's 2-1 defeat at Manchester City in the Champions League.

Raphael Varane Champions League

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But he did show a sense of responsibility after that game which spoke of his humility and how serious he is about his trade. While many players would have understandably shied away from post-match interviews after such an error-strewn performance, Varane fronted up.
"I want to show my face because this defeat is mine and I have to come to terms with it," he said.
"I have to acknowledge my role in the good times and the bad. It's going to be a complicated night because I'm a competitor and tonight I messed up."
Varane's new defensive partner Harry Maguire may not quite have the same pedigree or standing in the game as Ramos, but his qualities should dovetail well with the Frenchman's attributes to give United a defence that is not just solid but is also capable of starting attacks.
It is no exaggeration to say that Maguire and Varane are the most exciting centre-back pairing the club have had since Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, who helped them win five league titles before their years got the better of them.
Varane's confidence on the ball, notwithstanding that nightmarish evening at the Etihad Stadium, can help United take a big step forward towards more expansive play next season.
While the team have made progress in many areas since Solskjaer succeeded Jose Mourinho in 2018 and achieved successive top-four finishes for the first time since Alex Ferguson left, there is desire among fans for a more attacking approach.
There is also a recognition that the team need this for their own good, as they have often struggled to break down weaker teams who are willing to let them have the ball and not count on their deadliest weapon, the counterattack.
There have been several reports that Solskjaer is looking to play a more attacking formation next season after signing Jadon Sancho and is planning to switch from his favoured 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3, heralding the end of a double midfield pivot of Scott McTominay and Fred.

Harry Maguire Man Utd

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The presence of a top-class central defender who is able to push forward and join the midfield is crucial to this plan and in Varane United now have a player that fits the bill.
The Frenchman's arrival also gives Solskjaer strength in depth he has lacked in the last two seasons, which had led to an unhealthy reliance on Maguire, who played more minutes than any footballer in the world in the 2019/20 campaign.
Now the Norwegian has an array of quality players in all areas of defence and probably the strongest backline in the league behind City.
It still might not be enough to beat their noisy neighbours to the title, but at least now Solskjaer has a solid foundation to build a serious title bid.
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