Raphael Varane insists he does not regret joining Manchester United despite enduring a poor first season at Old Trafford, as he rejected criticism of Cristiano Ronaldo’s performances last term.

Varane joined United in August 2021 following a trophy-laden spell at Real Madrid.

However, he was unable to stop the Red Devils posting the worst defensive record in their Premier League history en route to a sixth-placed finish, as they conceded 57 goals in 38 games.

The 2018 World Cup winner started Erik ten Hag’s first pre-season game in charge of United, a 4-0 thrashing of Liverpool, which they have subsequently followed up with two more friendly victories.

In an interview with the BBC, Varane stood by his decision to join United as he hailed the high-octane style introduced by Ten Hag on their pre-season tour of Asia and Australia.

“In football, you have to challenge yourself and try to improve,” he said. “I wanted to live another experience after 10 years in the same place.

“The Premier League is absolutely fantastic and Manchester United are a great club. There was no doubt about my decision.

“It’s a new season, a new start. Confidence is important and we lost confidence when we lost some games. But I think we have great potential.

“The new manager is very positive. He wants this energy and to press high up the pitch, with more space behind our backs. That is maybe more offensive but it is football we really enjoy, so that is a good start.”

Varane made 22 Premier League appearances in his first campaign at Old Trafford, fewer than fellow central defenders Harry Maguire (30) and Victor Lindelof (28), and will face greater competition next term after United struck a deal to sign Ajax’s Lisandro Martinez.

But the France star says he is not fazed by that prospect, as he hailed Maguire’s ability after the United captain was jeered during a pre-season win over Crystal Palace.

“Competition is good for the team,” Varane added. “Harry is a very important player for us. He’s the captain and obviously he has a lot of good qualities.”

While results appear to be looking up for United, uncertainty over the future of superstar forward Ronaldo continues to cast a shadow over the new era at Old Trafford.

Ronaldo has reportedly asked to leave for a Champions League club, having been criticised for a perceived lack of work rate despite top-scoring for United with 24 goals on all fronts last season.

Though Varane did not comment on the 37-year-old’s future, he hit out at such assessments of Ronaldo’s performances.

“That debate was outside of the dressing room,” the defender said. “We know his quality. And we know he’s very famous. So we know a lot of people will speak about the performance of the team and his performance. Cristiano is a great competitor. He’s a legend and he always helps the team, so obviously it’s very good to play with him.”

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