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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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Varane targets July return

Raphael Varane, who is recovering from a knee injury back at his old club Lens, says he is on track to return for pre-season training with Real Madrid.

Varane, who sprung to prominence with a series of assured performances for Madrid last season, injured his knee at Espanyol in mid-May and then missed his club's last few games, including the Copa del Rey final defeat to local rivals Atletico Madrid.

The France international, 20, told the official Lens website that the lay-off had been unfortunate considering how well his season had been going, however he was confident he would be fine to begin preparation for next term with his team-mates in mid-July.

"The objective is to be ready for the games at the start of pre-season between July 10 and 15," Varane explained. "I played nearly the whole of last season [33 games and two goals] and I hope to be able to join up with the group as normal. An injury is never welcome, but it is part of a footballer's life."

Once the gravity of the injury had been realised, Madrid allowed Varane to spend some time with his family in northern France as he went through his recovery programme.

"I did not do anything dramatic with the knee, but the movement was enough to do myself damage," he said. "They operated on me very quickly in Beziers. It went very well for me. I took advantage of the season being over to continue my recovery in Lens which also allowed me to be close to my family. They also have very good infrastructure here. I am doing general work to strengthen the muscles, and specific work in the legs."

The cultured defender spent nine years at Lens playing in youth teams alongside fellow starlets Geoffrey Kondogbia (now at Sevilla) and Thorgan Hazard (Chelsea) before leaving the Stade Bollaert-Delelis to join Madrid in a move worth in the region of €10 million in the summer of 2011. He said he remained a firm fan of Les Sang et Or.

"This club will always have a special place for me," Varane said. "The simple fact of having returned inside its walls makes me happy. I am very devoted to this club, and always follow its results."

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