Uruguayan youngster Guillermo Varela became Manchester United’s first summer signing after recently penning a five-year deal with the Red Devils, who he will join after the Under-20 World Cup.
Despite making just 10 professional appearances and undertaking a trial period at Manchester United, Varela has convinced David Moyes that he’s cut out for life in the Premier League.
In recent years Manchester United has gained a reputation for entering into the South American transfer market, scouting some of the continent’s finest young talent. Rafael and Fabio Da Silva both joined in their teenage years, as did Chilean striker Angelo Henriquez, who signed from Universidad de Chile last season.
The ex-Penarol man should find himself in a familiar environment this summer as the club currently have several Spanish-speaking players, including the aforementioned Henriquez, Javier Hernandez, Antonio Valencia and, of course, David De Gea.
This will unquestionably help Varela to quickly settle into a new country, culture and league.
Varela was a brick wall in defence for the young Uruguayan effort, allowing attacking talents such as Diego Rolan and Roma's Nicolas Lopez to lead the front-line. Uruguay's success in the tournament came down to a watertight back-line.
The team conceded just three in their last five games, which meant the Rioplatense nation finished the final as the only unbeaten side. The Montevideo native first came to prominence this year, representing his nation during the South American Youth Championships.
During the tournament Varela isn't the biggest of players, standing in at 5 ft 7in, but what he lacks in height he certainly makes up for in pace. Varela excels with the ball at his feet down the right wing and is an explosive full-back in the best South American tradition, never afraid to burst through on the overlap using his raw pace to breeze past opposing defenders.
However, he can’t be stereotyped as a typical attacking wing-back from South America because he does have plenty of good defensive characteristics too. Varela reads the game very well enabling him to intercept passes, anticipate attacking runs and position himself correctly. Even in the times opposing players do get in behind him, his impressive pace enables him to quickly recover into position and make the tackle.
From what we saw in the South American Championships this year he also has the crossing quality to match his athleticism, as witnessed with a terrific run that culminated in an assist for Gonzalo Bueno against Chile.
This will offer the team a new dimension going forward and another creative outlet. Varela will be able to work in sync with the likes of Valencia and Nani to create a lighting quick right flank.
The Premier League is one of the most physically demanding and toughest leagues in world football. Varela may have showed early potential but he faces stronger and more technically gifted competition than at his previous club. It’s almost certain questions will remain over the 20-year-old’s lack of experience heading to England and he will need to overcome those tougher challenges if he’s to hit the ground running at Old Trafford.
Predominantly Varela will need to work on the physical side of his game above anything else. It’s most likely that Manchester United’s coaching staff will set a high intensity strength conditioning regime for the youngster in order for him to cope with life in the Premier League.
With his added strength Varela has the potential to become a fine right-back for Manchester United. After all, Varela only need to look at fellow colleague De Gea to see the rewards he’ll get from such training.
Right now it’s hard to visualise where Varela will fit in under new manager Moyes, and he may have to be patient for his opportunities as he embarks in his role as understudy to Rafael on the right, who at 23 is hardly a veteran either.
With that being said, Varela will offer healthy competition for Rafael offering extra strength and depth in a position that was seen to be a sign of weakness last season.
Their Brazilian has come of age this season, cementing his spot as first choice right-back, but if the 20-year-old can assure Moyes of his potential shown at this year’s Under-20 World Cup and beyond, a bright future beckons for Varela in English football.
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