Manchester United target centre-backs as Mourinho searches for a partner for Smalling

Jose Mourinho and Phil Jones

Jose Mourinho is tracking two centre-backs with leadership experience to partner Chris Smalling after seemingly losing confidence in Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo. The Independent and Manchester Evening News are both reporting that Mourinho is looking into the signing of one of  Zenit St. Petersburg’s Ezequiel Garay or Southampton’s Jose Fonte to provide greater strength and leadership at the back. United have already added Eric Bailly from Villareal for £30 million and he played in all of United’s three pre-season games putting in some strong performances but with United still leaking goals, it’s likely someone will come in alongside Smalling and Bailly will provide first choice back-up.

As I’m sure you will remember, Manchester United had several bids for Garay rejected by Benfica before the Argentine completed his move to Zenit St Petersburg in May 2014. The defender was rated as one of the best centre-backs in the world a few years ago but with his move to Russia, he has fallen off the radar. At 29, Garay would provide years of experience to a relatively inexperienced defence as well as Champions League experience which will help in the Europa League this season. Previously United had bid rumoured to be £17 million, this time round it’s more likely the figure will be similar as he still has another three years left on his contract. Garay has 32 caps for Argentina and has played alongside United’s Marcos Rojo on a number of occasions, this could help him settle in if he were to join the Red Devils. There has been no official word from either ppartyas to whether a bid or move it likely but he would provide a leader as well as vital experience that Bailly, Blind and Jones lack.

The other player linked with a move to Old Trafford is the Euro 2016 winner and current Southampton defender Jose Fonte. The Portugal national team player has impressed since joining Southampton in 2010 making 241 appearances across League One, Championship and Premier League. He has been a consistent figure at the back over the last three seasons and is deemed as one of the better defenders in the league. Fonte would be a cheaper option than Garay with a price around the £10 million mark believed to be enough to convince Southampton. However, at 32 he would be a short-term fix. This isn’t an issue for Mourinho as he’s proven in the past and with the addition of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, his aim is to bring immediate success to United and if he feels Fonte can provide that assurance for a year or two then his age becomes irrelevant. United do face competition for Fonte however with Everton and former boss Ronald Koeman looking to bring him up to Goodison Park for a fee of £9 million, according to The Star. According to the article Fonte would provide as a replacement for John Stones who is close to a move away from the Liverpool-based club.

The addition of another centre-back would likely mean the end of either Phil Jones or Marcos Rojo’s time at the club, as well as Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair who are likely to go out on loan, with the latter being linked with a move to Scottish champions, Celtic.

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