The recent defensive crisis at Manchester United has paved the way for 22-year-old Guillermo Varela to finally breakthrough at the club.
The Uruguayan right-back was David Moyes’ first signing in charge of the Red Devils but spent last season on loan at Real Madrid Castilla.
However, current United manager Louis van Gaal, as he has done with so many youngsters before, has given Varela an opportunity in the first-team. His debut came as a half-time substitute in their goalless draw with West Ham on December 5.
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In their dramatic 3-2 loss at Wolfsburg last Tuesday, Varela was a surprise inclusion but produced an impressive performance in what was his Champions League bow and first start for the club.
The Uruguay Under-20s international caught the eye of United’s scouts at the 2013 South American Youth Championship and was given a trial at United in May of the same year.
And the following month, the 20-time league champions signed Varela from his hometown club Penarol for a fee believed to be around €2.8 million.
During his loan spell at Castilla, the 22-year-old made 33 appearances and even managed a goal. The youngster’s time in Madrid was highly successful and impressed so much he was included in the first team's 2014/15 UEFA Champions League squad.
Against Wolfsburg, in what was was a season-defining match for Van Gaal’s men in Germany, Varela seemed hardly fazed by the situation. He showed excellent energy levels early on when pressing the ball high up the pitch and won the ball back for United on numerous occasions.
Varela used his awareness to break up some dangerous counter attacks and wasn’t afraid to put his foot in when necessary.
Offensively, the youngster was always willing to get forward for United and provided the likes of Juan Mata and Bastian Schweinsteiger a constant outlet on the right flank. Overall, the debutant had a great game under the circumstances and looked solid throughout.
Prior to the game, BT Sport pundit Owen Hargreaves claimed Varela was either going to “sink or swim” inside the Volkswagen Arena. After the defeat, Hargreaves, who co-commentated on the match, lauded the youngster for his bright display.
Having honed his skills with the likes of Sergio Ramos, James Rodriguez and Cristiano Ronaldo last season, Van Gaal was right to give Varela his chance in the first team.
Varela himself will hope his encouraging performance in Europe will provide a platform to finally launch his Manchester United career and provide the spark to bring light back to Old Trafford.