Raphael’s work was complete. He’d played another peerless game in Manchester United’s defence – though he had to overcome the surprise of United conceding a first league goal at home since September 4, when Arsenal were defeated 3-1.
The comeback against Manchester City was a high point of a season that started badly but is now bringing many for United fans. Erik ten Hag’s side have won their last nine matches and moved up to third in the Premier League, just one point behind City. It was after that win against Pep Guardiola’s side that Varane walked towards J-Stand and began to salute the fans in that section, his clenched fists rising three times to huge cheers.
The National spoke to the French international defender after the game and he explained: “At the end I felt a connection with the fans. We really want to win and to do that against a big rival, in our home. We live stronger with this. It was beautiful. It’s a special stadium with a magnificent atmosphere. It’s amazing.”
How was that today?
Very good. I’m really happy. It was a good game. We prepared so well tactically for this game with the Mister (the manager). We spoke a lot with him. We knew exactly what we wanted to do. In this game we played better in the first half but we didn’t score. In the second part we played a little poor. It was difficult, City played well. Then we became efficient. It was a special game, a comeback and in our own home.
We’re now much better than the last game [against City]. We know better now what the manager wants and how he wants to do it. We’ve seen the evolution in this team. It was a complete game at a high level. We’re very happy.
You mentioned tactical preparations, describe them please
We know that City play very well. They press, they have a lot of the ball. So we chose when to press and where to close the spaces. We knew where to hurt them and we have players who are very fast up front. We had to use our fast players.
And the comeback, describe the mentality of the players to come back?
After the first goal, we didn’t let our heads drop, even though we conceded a goal in our home. But we also knew that we had the energy of the fans. We continued to follow our plan. Then we scored and that changed the whole game.
Was that your best moment so far in this club?
One of them, for sure. I’ve not seen the league table yet but it was beautiful.
The league table is looking very good. Is a title challenge possible?
Everything is possible. We’ll just take it game by game. It’s a long way to go and it’s very difficult. The intensity of every game is incredible, the physical effort. It’s like the same intensity of a big Champions [League] game every game. The rhythm is very high. The players are very well prepared physically. We know how difficult it is. But we’re solid, we’re strong. We just need to use the quality players with the ball.
Can we talk about some of those players – the defenders?
Really good today. Concentrated. Aggressive, well-positioned. We spoke a lot during the game about where to close down the spaces and where to cover for each other. We spoke a lot about this before the game too. You cannot leave a single second to chance against a team like City.
And with Casemiro in front of you?
There are no words. Ok, he covers so much ground. He runs so much. He’s aggressive when he wants the ball, yet calm when he has the ball. He was incredible one more time.”