Raphael Varane returned to training with Real last week after his exploits with France at Euro 2020

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Manchester United are closing in on a deal for Raphael Varane after successful talks with Real Madrid and the France defender over the weekend.

United have been treading cautiously in their pursuit of Varane this summer, conscious of how Sergio Ramos used the club’s interest in 2015 as leverage to win a lucrative new contract with Real, but another significant hurdle was crossed during discussions over the past 48 hours.

Varane, 28, is in the final year of his contract at the Bernabeu and has been reluctant to commit to a new deal as he eyes a fresh challenge in the Premier League with United.

United were keen to get Varane on board before intensifying negotiations with Real but talks with all parties are being described as “positive” by Old Trafford insiders as an agreement moves closer.

Real are thought to want around €50 million (£42.8m) – less than their valuation earlier in the summer – but United are still hopeful of driving down that fee a little. The gap in valuation is not expected to prove an issue, though, unless Real alter their position.

Losing Ramos, who has joined Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent, and Varane in the same summer would be a significant development given that the pair formed the backbone of four European Cup-winning sides at Real.

Varane, who returned to training with Real last week, has no intention of trying to force through a move out of respect to the Madrid club and is happy for discussions between the clubs to take their course. The France World Cup-winner was at Madrid’s Valdebebas training ground on Monday.

United’s interest in Varane dates back as far as Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure when the former manager thought he had an agreement in place for the player, only for Zinedine Zidane’s intervention to swing a deal in Real’s favour in 2013.

United have coveted Varane in the years since and are now within reach of finally landing a player whom manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer considers to be central to his plans for next season as he bids to bolster central defence and play a more attack-minded midfield.

Raphael Varane has been pre-season training with Real Madrid

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Solskjaer favoured two midfield pivots in a lot of matches last season but hopes to operate with just one defensive midfielder in more matches next season and considers the arrival of a fast, experienced centre-back to be key to that.

United announced the signing of Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund for £72.9m last week and the prospect of bringing in Varane in addition to the England winger would represent impressive business given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on finances. 

Solskjaer hopes Sancho and Varane – should a deal go through – will significantly boost United’s chances of challenging for the Premier League title next season.

United have also been linked with Atletico Madrid right-back Kieran Trippier and are sounding out midfielders but they will need to sell and trim the wage bill to continue investing heavily this summer.

Paul Pogba faces an uncertain future amid interest from Paris Saint-Germain in the France midfielder, who is in the final year of his contract at Old Trafford. There are also doubts over Jesse Lingard’s future.

Solskjaer said after Saturday’s 4-2 friendly defeat to Queens Park Rangers that he expects to have those players who featured at the Euros and Copa America back in 10 days’ time.

Left-back Alex Telles is expected to miss the start of the season after being ruled out for a few weeks after he twisted an ankle against QPR.

Rashford’s shoulder injury could mean Daniel James stays put at Old Trafford

by James Ducker

Marcus Rashford’s shoulder injury could scupper attempts by Premier League clubs to sign Daniel James from Manchester United this summer.

Rashford is due to have another consultation this week before undergoing an operation to repair a torn muscle in his left shoulder that could sideline the United forward for up to 12 weeks.

His absence would rob Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of one of his key attackers and leave the United manager even more reluctant to allow the in-demand James to move permanently or on loan before the transfer window closes on Aug 31.

United announced the signing of England winger Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund last week but, with Rashford unavailable and youngster Amad Diallo’s involvement at the start of the season potentially complicated by his involvement at the Olympics with Ivory Coast, Solskjaer does not want to limit his options out wide.

Leeds United and Brighton & Hove Albion are among the clubs interested in James.

Daniel James has been in pre-season with Manchester United

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Burnley are also admirers but the Wales forward’s wages would likely put him out of the range of the Lancashire club, who face a fight to keep winger Dwight McNeil at Turf Moor this summer at a time when Sean Dyche already wants to recruit two wide players. 

Rashford is due to have his shoulder assessed again this week – possibly on Tuesday – with a view to then undergoing surgery in the days that follow.

The England forward suffered the injury against Arsenal on Nov 1 and has been managing the problem ever since.

He has been told the injury will not get any worse but he is conscious it has not improved either and the swelling causes him serious discomfort and has inhibited his movement and ability to hold up and challenge for the ball, particularly later in the games. Rashford has had pain-killing injections to help him through games.

United encouraged Rashford not to rush into a decision and Solskjaer said in the wake of their first pre-season friendly against Preston North End that they were “looking at the best options” and that the player “went away just to reflect on it a little bit”.

However, Rashford is thought to remain keen to press ahead with the surgery and return in peak condition, even if that may rule him out of action until mid October.

He may also have a foot injury assessed at the same time. Rashford has been playing with strained ligaments at the bottom of his right foot since early March.