Manchester United has already made four new signings the summer with Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba signing for the Old Trafford club, Southampton central defender and Euro 2016 winner Jose Fonte seems to be on the club’s radar. Fonte is an experienced Premier League defender, which is something Manchester United lack at this current time. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are experienced, but the latter is more experienced in being injured and for that reason could well be surplus to requirements at the club this summer. Jones has been a United player since the summer of 2011, but over the past few seasons, injury has curtailed his career and stopped him from achieving, albeit so far, what he was tipped too. Daley Blind has been a United player for two years now, meaning he has experience, but not a lot, and he is not an actual central defender, despite playing the majority of last season as one. Marcos Rojo, another player who has been at the club for two years now, also has experience, but defensively, he is somewhat of a liability.
After that, United have plenty of talented youth players, but again, experience is something which is lacking there. At 32, Fonte could well be the experienced player that Jose Mourinho could bring into his team and somewhat fortify his defence. The Portuguese is experienced in English football after arriving at Crystal Palace on loan in the 2007/08 season, signed permanently the following season, playing for three years in the Championship – 92 appearances and six goals. Southampton, then a League One club, signed Fonte in the summer of 2009, so far playing at the South Coast club for seven seasons, this one being his eighth at the club. Fonte spent two seasons in League One before the club were promoted to the Championship, spending one season before the Premier League arrived at the club. The will be the Portuguese defenders sixth season in the Premier League, which gives him the experience needed at Old Trafford. Fonte has made 135 appearances in the Premier League, scoring seven goals, just under half of his career goals.
Many newspapers have linked United to many players this summer, with Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane considered a target, based on the fact his playing time was constrained last season, and with the resurgence of Pepe, could well be the case this season too. It was reported last month that Varane had turned down the chance to sign for Manchester United, which would be for the second time in his career, but the reliability on that is questionable considering The Sun and even the Daily Star reported it, reporting on what Marca had said in Spain, at a time where Real Madrid was missing out on Paul Pogba, a player wanted by manager Zinedine Zidane. Fonte, a player who has been reported as being ‘flattered’ by the interest shown in him by Mourinho, signed a new deal with Southampton less than a year ago, which would keep him at the club until the summer of 2018. Another new deal could be on the table this summer, with Southampton keen to keep hold of their player.
Last season in the Premier League, Fonte made 37 appearances, scoring twice – which is good for a central defender. The Portuguese had a shot accuracy of 44%, which for a defender is good, he created five chances, four being key passes – one being an assist. He maintained his passing accuracy at 84%, which is good and could be something he could bring from the back at United. Fonte also won 57% of his duels, which doesn’t quite make him a beast at defending, but he certainly is no pushover. Fonte average nine defensive actions per match last season, making a total of three defensive errors which all led to a shot on goal. Fonte was book four times, being sent off once. He may not be the best defender or one many will want, but when you look at Phil Jones always seemingly injured and the fact that Marcos Rojo is a calamity in a defensive role recently, Fonte has to at least pip both of those within the squad.
Fonte would bring some experience to the back four, something that the squad is currently lacking. The Portuguese defender can defend and has done so at a high level over the past few seasons. During this summer’s European Championships in France, Fonte did not play any of the first three group stage matches for his country, playing against Croatia, Poland, Wales and France in the knockout stages of the tournament, doing well and ensuring his country were crowned as champions. At 32, he may not have the longevity of the likes of Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Daley Blind and even Marcos Rojo, but his experience is the key and something that United could really do with. He may not be one of the stars that United supporters may crave for in defence, but a star is not always the best thing for a team.
Manchester United have signed some great players over the past decade or so, some of whom were not stars; Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra to name a few, both played for the club with immense passion, proving themselves, even if it did look touch and go at the start. United have a good mix of defenders right now, but experience is the main issue, injuries are another. Fonte could bring the experience, which could be something of a masterstroke for Jose Mourinho this summer. According to Transfermarkt, Fonte has suffered one serious injury in the last four years, a knee injury which kept him out for 50 days, missing eight matches for Southampton. Compared to Phil Jones, for instance, he missed 161 days through injury last season, missing 36 matches in total – compared to Fonte, the 24-year-old seems to be more of a liability in United’s defence.