Inside Varane's stunning Man Utd unveiling - from beating the Manchester traffic to sneaking inside Old Trafford
"Please welcome the latest addition to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad and our latest Red... Raphael Varane!" Old Trafford stadium announcer Alan Keegan exclaimed on Saturday afternoon, with the vast majority of the 72,000 in attendance leaping to their feet.
As opening day surprises go, unveiling a new signing like Varane 10 minutes before kick-off has to be up there with the best.
Keegan was not given much notice in order to tweak his matchday script, such was the secrecy around the way Manchester United were planning on presenting their latest superstar signing.
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For days '#announcevarane' had trended on Twitter, but United wanted to go old school with their unveiling.
Everything has been tried over the years to make a bigger and bigger impact, but this time there was to be no piano playing video, no collaboration with a well-known rapper and no big social media reveal.
A unique set of circumstances presented the opportunity to do it this way; the first game of the season, a capacity crowd for the first time in 17 months and the signing being completed the previous day provided a perfect cocktail to announce Varane on the pitch in front of the supporters lucky enough to be inside for the 5-1 destruction of Leeds.
In an ideal world, Varane would have been dressed in his new No.19 United shirt, which he held aloft to the Old Trafford faithful, rather than just posing with it.
Delays in getting this transfer over the line, however, meant that he was not registered with the Premier League by the deadline of midday on Friday and, instead, conversations were held to get permission to change the pre-match running order to announce the World Cup winner.
Such is the usual clockwork nature of the pre-match routine, with the programme expertly laid out for broadcasters, United had to apply to the Premier League to slightly alter the pre-planned running order to introduce Varane.
The atmosphere was already building inside Old Trafford before Keegan took to the mic shortly before kick-off to announce the signing. He started by listing his achievements - including four Champions League winners medals and the World Cup. If the fans were not excited before, they certainly were by that stage.
“Unbelievable,” BT Sport pundit Joe Cole said pitchside. “This is very smart by Solskjaer. When you want to unveil a big player and get the crowd going you do it right now. These fans are off their seats; it’s going to be electric the first 10-15 minutes of this game.”
The military precision of the unveiling, which included the central defender having to pass Covid tests as well as meeting Premier League approval, could not, unfortunately, extend to managing the thronging Manchester traffic.
There had been a small wave of panic that Varane would miss his big moment when he was at a standstill in the people carrier transporting him to the ground. Not only did he manage to make it in time, more impressively he managed to be smuggled inside with barely anyone noticing.
In a social media-focused world, one picture of the France international walking into the stadium would have ruined the big surprise.
With the extension of the atmosphere section in the Stretford End, as well as the introduction of rail seating in the J Stand, the noise levels were always expected to increase. But the roar inside Old Trafford as the 28-year-old emerged was deafening and it set the tone for a very good first day of the season for Solskjaer’s side.
As he walked out to the centre circle, he applauded the fans who cheered him before holding his new No.19 shirt aloft and taking a selfie for his personal memory book.
Everyone who has dealt with Varane so far has been complimentary about his attitude, humility and team ethic. Sources say that the fact he was happy to accept the No.19 shirt with No.5 - his Real Madrid number - and No.4 - his France number - already taken is further evidence of the type of person he is.
Varane did not see all five goals that his team-mates scored live in person, as he headed to the club’s Carrington training ground to get straight to work while the game was still being played. He underwent a gym session and completed his club media duties, impressing staff with his excellent English, before heading home.
Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has bragged in the past about social media stats around big signing announcements to investors and, while the metrics of success might not be as easy to monitor this time around, the consensus might be that it couldn’t have gone much better.