Guillermo Varela, the first signing of the David Moyes era at Manchester United, is not a player that many know much about. The 20-year-old only made one appearance with Peñarol, his former club, prior to impressing during a two-week trial at Carrington towards the end of the season. The right-back apparently caught the eye of United during Uruguay's campaign to qualify for the Under-20 World Cup as he was arguably the standout player for them during that time. In Uruguay's 0-1 defeat by Croatia in the opening match for both sides in group play, United's newest player flashed his potential by providing them a balanced performance.
Varela isn't the biggest of players (his wikipedia lists him at 5 ft 7 1⁄2 in) but he wasn't hindered by his size against Croatia. By my count, he won two of four aerial duels -- most of those contests being against a much taller Ante Rebic -- and he was strong in tackle. Croatia had more of the possession for the first hour of the match and they also were controlling the territory battle. Therefore, Varela was defending more than he was getting forward. The right-back's positioning was generally solid and even in the times Rebic got in behind him, his impressive pace enabled him to quickly recover. In the 51st minute, on a Croatia counterattack that resulted from a failed Uruguay corner, the 20-year-old impressively broke up what was looking to be a dangerous break due to his pace and tenacity.
The Uruguayan also hinted that he reads the game well when he anticipated and cut out passes made by Croatia. He perhaps, though, could have done slightly better on Crotia's goal: when Rebic made a darting run with the ball towards the center, Varela handed him off to a central-defender but then that created a 2 v 1 situation -- Rebic would eventually maze his way through and score.
Varela also displayed a clear eagerness in getting forward when the opportunity presented itself. His energy and explosive pace enabled him to join the attack quickly so that he could make himself available for passes after making overlapping runs. Even though Uruguay were much improved in the final half-hour of the match, much of their attack went down the left side through impressive winger Diego Laxalt. Therefore, Varela's attacking influence increasingly waned as the match wore on.
When going forward, the Uruguayan right-back was fairly basic with his contributions: all of his runs forward overlapped the right-winger and none went underneath, he generally kept his passes simple and left it to the front four to provide the incisiveness, and he only sent in one cross by my count (an early one that was easily cleared by Croatia).
Overall, it was a decent performance by Varela and there were clear flashes of his potential. Physically, his pace is incredibly impressive and his technical ability appears solid. For a right-back clearly willing to get forward when he can, he was also very good with his positioning. It was a balanced effort for the newest United player and I'd probably give him a 6.5/10 rating for this match.