Manchester United have been trying hard to address their defensive woes for quite some time now and Louis van Gaal seems to have found an answer in German World Cup winner, Benedikt Höwedes, according to the Daily Star.
The impressive German has been a consistent performer for Schalke over the last few seasons. His strong defensive showings have ensured that he is regarded as one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga. Höwedes has never spoken openly of leaving the Veltins Arena but should a club like Manchester United come calling, his loyalties could be put through a serious test. United have been keeping tabs on Höwedes for some time now and considering that shortcomings of an amateur Manchester United defence, the transfer looks like a necessity more than ever. However, United won’t be having it easy with Höwedes as Arsene Wenger is also interested in taking German International to Emirates.
United seem to have rediscovered their swagger under Van Gaal. However, a leaky back line has meant that a resurgent United still trail the table toppers by nine points. Currently third place in the Barclays Premier League is largely due to the superlative performances of meteoric stopper, David De Gea. The Manchester United back line has lacked an authoritative figure since the departures of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra. So, signing Höwedes in this window could prove to be a masterstroke. Having amassed over 200 appearances for Die Knappen, his experience at the top-level would be helpful for a young and mediocre United back line. He also has 31 caps for the Germany, which further proves his class.
The German is one of the most versatile defenders available and can slot in anywhere across the back four effectively. The fact that Höwedes started his career as a defensive midfielder would be music to Van Gaal’s ears as the Dutchman prefers ball-playing defenders. Höwedes has a pass completion rate of over 88% which is better than Mats Hummels who completes 80% of his total attempted passes. Also, Höwedes averages 55 passes per game whereas Hummels averages only 32! The German stands tall at 6.2 which makes him a threat during set-pieces. Add to this his Dribbling prowess and you have a complete all-round defender on your hands, who not only technically but also is physically suitable for the rigours of the premier league. At 26, his peak years lie ahead of him which means he could spearhead the Red Devils’ backline for years to come. Also, his experience at left-back could prove crucial for Luke Shaw’s development.
Benedikt Höwedes looks more attainable as compared to his German team-mate Mats Hummels and other transfer targets. With age on his side, he in no way looks like a short-term fix. Also, he would cost only 1/3rd of what Borussia Dortmund would be asking for their star defender whom Van Gaal has been pursuing constantly. Schalke would demand anywhere between £15-18 million for their captain’s services, which would be an absolute steal considering the amount of experience and quality that he would bring to Manchester United. If Ed Woodward is successful in pulling off this transfer, it would go a long way in challenging the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City for top honors and mounting up a strong title charge!