Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag might be contradicting himself with Raphael Varane – Steven Railston

There must be access given to a player before European fixtures and journalists can usually make an educated guess to predict which member of the dressing room will join Ten Hag at the press conference.

Along with Varane, Andre Onana, Diogo Dalot, Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes have spoken at press conferences this season and the bookmakers would make Luke Shaw their favourite to speak next.

Club sources would concede the general criteria for a player to speak at a European press conference is someone who is experienced, has media training, is a coherent communicator and plays regular football.

Although Varane ticked all of those boxes at the beginning of October, that has changed by December and there&aposs speculation his relationship with the manager has become as frosty as the Manchester weather.

Unexpectedly, Varane has been moved to the bench and he&aposs started just one of the last 11 games, with Jonny Evans, Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw being preferred alongside Harry Maguire in defence.

Varane picked up a &aposminor injury issue&apos in October, but eyebrows were raised when Manchester City visited Old Trafford and Evans started over him, despite the Frenchman having recovered from the problem.

Ten Hag spoke ahead of that game and said Evans was starting for &apostactical reasons&apos, something which he later double-downed on in his post-match debrief when explaining he was selected to help build up play.

Raphael Varane is a four-time Champions League winner and a World Cup winner and regardless of his professionalism, it&aposs likely he felt disrespected to be benched in such a manner for the Manchester derby.

Evans was a free agent in the summer after running down his contract with relegated Leicester. The 35-year-old was signed on a short-term deal to provide defensive cover and yet he&aposs been preferred to Varane.

There seemed to be something bubbling below the surface between Ten Hag and Varane and clarity was sought at a press conference in November, but suggestions of a fallout were strongly refuted.

“Absolutely not,” said Ten Hag when asked whether there was an issue with Varane. “As I said, it is about tactical reasons why I chose these partnerships. I think Harry [Maguire] and Jonny [Evans] did well.

“Last year Harry didn&apost play a lot, so I was very happy with Rapha&aposs performances. I have always been happy with his performance. But in this moment, Harry is playing very well and there is internal competition.”

Harry Maguire has enjoyed an unlikely renaissance this season and he&aposs considered the first choice on the right side of central defence, which is the position Varane is competing to play in, according to his manager.

Ten Hag doesn&apost want either of those players at the left side of the defence because of the effect it has on the build-up and that ultimately means Evans, Lindelof and Shaw are the options to start alongside Maguire.

Varane has been left in the cold and he&aposs made four substitute appearances over the last two months, but the MEN revealed this week that he wants to stay beyond the closure of the January transfer window.

If Varane&aposs situation doesn&apost improve by the end of the season, he is likely to leave the club, but he&aposll remain professional until then, despite Ten Hag contradicting himself with the reason for his relocation to the bench.

Ten Hag has indicated he wants a left-footed player – or someone who can play with that foot – on that side of the defence, but that hasn&apost stopped him from picking Diogo Dalot, who is a naturally right-footed player.

Dalot has started at left-back in multiple matches this season, including against Newcastle at the weekend. That must be a source of frustration for Varane and it wouldn&apost have gone unnoticed in the dressing room.