You might not want reminding, but it is now one week since Manchester United’s season came crashing to an end with a defeat by Villarreal in the Europa League final.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has referenced ‘fine margins’ throughout his tenure at Old Trafford; had they gone his way in Gdansk seven days ago the mood among United supporters would be very different now.
Instead a dampener has been set on a season which brought with it some undeniable highs, with the onus now firmly on United to deliver a response in the transfer window.
United were already planning to go ‘all out’ for a new centre-back this summer before an injury to Harry Maguire exposed their fragility at the back. Gerard Moreno’s opener for Villarreal was surely the final nail in the coffin for Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof as a partnership in any big game.
Transfer chiefs decided on a five-man list of prospective defensive signings in the New Year with Raphael Varane and Pau Torres both among those considered. Recent developments might well make the Real Madrid man an even more attainable option.
United are already in talks with Varane’s representatives given the French defender is out of contract next summer, and Real Madrid are prepared to sell him to any interested party in order to secure a fee.
There could be another thing working in United’s favour too: the return of Carlo Ancelotti to the Spanish capital
The Italian returns to Real having previously managed them for two years between 2013 and 2015, a spell which saw Varane struggle for game time at the Bernabeu.
“Since he left, I’ve improved,” Varane told L’Equipe in 2017 when asked about his time under Ancelotti. “I could have perhaps played more under him if I could have shown him he could count on me in difficult times.
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“There was less turnover and you really needed to bring the house down to have any chance of playing again. I wasn’t able to do that.”
Varane had no hard feelings towards Ancelotti, although he admitted that greater clarity at the time certainly would have helped him understand the reasons better. Such communication could be a key advantage for United this summer.
He added: “We have had disagreements, but we’re both capable of admitting when we’re wrong. Since, we get on very well.
“I needed to know what I had to do to get time on the pitch. He told me things clearly, notably that he considered me important.
“We set out again on a good footing. I try to return the trust he has in me when he plays me.”
Giving his players clarity is one of Solskjaer’s strong suits, with his personal skills a key reason for his popularity among United’s players.
It was the Norwegian’s brief to ‘put smiles back on faces’ at United and despite another trophyless season that is one task which he has completed.
With spirits still high around the first-team squad there remains a genuine belief that United could reap the rewards next season if they keep key players fit and add the right players to their squad in the off-season.
In order to finally scratch a trophy itch Solskjaer will need reinforcements, and he might well possess a key characteristic which puts him ahead of Ancelotti on Varane’s own personal wish list.