Manchester United will be seeking to sign a new central defender this summer with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looking for a commanding partner for Harry Maguire. The England defender who netted the winner against Poland at Wembley on Wednesday evening was signed for £80 million from Leicester City in the summer of 2019 and is seeking to finish his second season with the club on a high. United are short on defenders at this time with Phil Jones on the sidelines through injury and Eric Bailly unable to be relied upon with his own poor injury record what has seen him on the sidelines through injury for around 33.3% of his time at the club.
Victor Lindelof is the best partner for Maguire at this time based on his availability, which stands at 82% if the matches played since he signed for the club in the summer of 2017. Axel Tuanzebe will get his chance but he’s a rookie and United need proven quality to partner Maguire, which will help the likes of Tuanzebe and even Teden Mengi make the grade at United. The club should have four experienced central defenders that they could rotate throughout the season, keeping everyone fresh. United have been linked to many defenders already despite the season not yet coming to a close. In this article I will talk about options United could take.
Jules Kounde, 22 – Sevilla FC
Jules Kounde is perhaps the target that many supporters of United want to see wearing the famous red shirt of the club. However, there seems to be a few problems that could stop that from happening. There seems to be many clubs with an interest in the Frenchman and his £68 million release clause is a fee that United would be reluctant to pay, according to FourFourTwo – which seems rather strange. If he’s an upgrade on the likes of Phil Jones and Eric Bailly, what could be the problem? Kounde is right footed with Solskjaer seeking a left footed defender last summer. It might not be the main factor that needs to be met in a possible transfer though.
Kounde is at a relatively early stage of his career and has played 79 times for Sevilla, scoring five goals and two assists. He came through the academy at Girondins Bordeaux, making 70 first team appearances for the club, scoring four goals and one assist before his transfer. Kounde can play in either of the central defensive positions in a four-man defence and he would no doubt be an upgrade but if United are seeking a cheaper deal, they will go with other options. I like Kounde’s style of play – a more conservative approach, delaying actions to force his opponents to make mistakes. He’s contracted at Sevilla until the summer of 2024.
Pau Torres, 24 – Villarreal CF
Pau Torres has been linked with United for the past year and it was expected that a deal could have been completed last summer, but nothing happened. The player is left footed and fit the speculation that Solskjaer wanted a left footed central defender last summer, which would add balance to the defence. It has been reported that Torres has a €60 million (£51 million) release clause, according to the Manchester Evening News. United have been scouting the player, according to the reports and would spend a significant amount of their transfer budget on the player. Perhaps in the coming months we will see if the interest is concrete.
Torres is a bit more experienced than Kounde and has been learning English, at least that is what reports have stated. His current contract runs until the summer of 2024, so it seems unlikely that United would be able to do a deal, unless they have a player that Villarreal could be interested in as part of a potential deal. Torres has played 75 matches for Villarreal, scoring five goals and two assists. Torres has speed and precise passing ability inn his locker and he has established many defensive concepts. He could well be the player United opt for this summer but there are many other options.
Ben White, 23 – Brighton and Hove Albion
Ben White is a player that has been linked to United, amongst other clubs this season. He does not seem to be one of the exciting options that the club could go for this summer. He is a right footed player, like Kounde and will be a more frugal option to reinforce the defence this summer. White started out at Southampton and was sold to Brighton as an academy player. He was loaned to Newport County, playing 51 times, scoring one goal and five assists, Peterborough United, where be played 16 times, scoring one goal, and Leeds United, where he played 49 times, scoring one goal and two assists.
His current contract, which was renewed in September 2020, expires in the summer of 2024 and he has a £50 million price tag with Chelsea also interested in the player, according to Football.London but £35 million could be a starting point. There are far better options for United this summer, inn my opinion. Torres would be a similar amount and Kounde would inanely be £18 million more, so this would not be a good deal, at that figure. White is a ball-playing defender, has versatility and good technical ability. Each target will bring something different to the table and United will have to find the player who fits what they need this summer and beyond.
Nikola Milenkovic, 23 – ACF Fiorentina
Nikola Milenkovic has been linked to United more in the past few weeks but he has been a player linked to United in the past too. A few weeks ago the speculation suggested that he was the player that United were going to complete a deal for, but slow news days tend to bring these reports, then the same journalists pick another name and do the same. Milenkovic is a right footed player, so fits the bill with Kounde and White. He started out at FK Partizan Belgrade and played 44 times, scoring four goals and one assist for the club. He was sold to Fiorentina where he has so far played 125 times, scoring 11 goals and one assist.
His current contract expires in the summer of 2022, so in terms of getting a good deal, the 23-year-old could be an option as in a year’s time, he could be a free agent which gives United an opportunity to get a defender on the cheap. compared to the other players already mentioned here. United are said to have opened talks with Fiorentina, according to Constantin Eckner and a fee of £30 million could be paid for him. He has intelligent reading of the game, has an innate sense of positioning and is fearless and strong. Perhaps he could be the one for Solskjaer this summer?
Anel Ahmedhodzic, 22 – Malmo FF
Anel Ahmedhodzic is perhaps the lesser known of all the players linked to United at this present time but United have, in the past, gone under the radar to get deals done. He is another right footed player so it perhaps suggests that being left footed is not an attribute that is ultra important. Ahmedhodzic started out at Malmo before leaving for Nottingham Forest, where he made his professional debut at the age of 17, his only appearance for the club. He returned back to Malmo in 2019 and was loaned to Hobro IK where he made 19 appearances, scoring one goal and one assist.
To date, the 22-year-old has made 45 appearances for Malmo, scoring two goals and one assist. Ahmedhodzic’s contract runs until the 31 December 2023 meaning Malmo are inn a strong position to ask for a big fee for the player. It is suggested that Malmo would want a club record fee to let the player leave and that is suggested to be around €8.11 million, according to Swedish outlet Expressen. This would be a frugal option for United. Ahmedhodzic is a physical player, using his body well in duels and to block shots. His passing is rather good and he can keep possession well. There could be something positive in this rumour.
Sven Botman, 21 – LOSC Lille
Sven Botman is a recent addition to United’s list of potential central defenders and would seem to be a good fit at United, should he ben the one that Solskjaer opts for. He is a left footed player, like Torres and is contracted to his club until the summer of 2025. Botman came though the academy at Ajax and was loaned to Heerenveen before being sold to Lille. In 30 appearances for Heerenveen, he scored two goals and four assists. Whilst he never made a senior appearance for Ajax, me played 83 times at youth level, scoring 15 goals and two assists. At Lille, he has played 39 times, not scoring a goal but he has one assist.
Botman is comfortable on the ball both with his left and right foot, which shows some ability. His passing is good and he is a progressive dribbler of the ball. He is a stocky player, which comes in handy for duels and his positioning tends to be good. At 21, he has come a long way but has a lot of development to come, which might be too much for the Premier League and the demands that United will have. He could be a player for the future though. Also linked to Liverpool, it is suggested that a £39 million would be payable, according to Calcio Mercato. Coming through the Ajax academy will have given him a good footballing education.
Raphaël Varane, 27 – Real Madrid CF
Raphaël Varane is a player that Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to sign for United back in 2011, opting to sign Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers when the Frenchman signed for Real Madrid. His current contract expires in the summer of 2022, so there could be some options for him, especially at a much reduced fee, if he was available this summer. But like ofter Madrid players, speculation seems to get them a new contract. He started at Lens, playing 24 times and scoring two goals before moving to Madrid. Since then, he has played 355 times, scoring 17 goals and seven assists, winning 18 trophies in his career at the Spanish club.
Varane plays better alongside Sergio Ramos, who is the pressure player in Madrid’s back four and Varane is a good defensive partner for him. At United, could it work alongside Maguire? Who knows. Maguire is not the same defender as Ramos so the jury will be out there. Some say Varane needs Ramos and that could be right. However, he has his uses. He will be the expensive player here with Madrid demanding €70 million (£59.6 million) for the player, according to AS. This could rule out United from making an offer, should there be solid availability, especially if they will not attempt to sign Kounde, who is a decent defender too.
Nathan Collins, 19 – Stoke City
Nathan Collins is a younger option and there is no reason why the club could not bring him from Stoke City and sign a first team standard defender too, providing money is available for both. Collins could learn more in the United academy with some players likely to be released this summer, which could leave positions available in the U23’s – that said, he may want senior football but United could be a good move. Darren Fletcher, United’s technical director could hold the key in Collins leaving Stoke. His contract ends in the summer of 2024. He has 47 senior appearances for Stoke, scoring three goals and one assist.
Collins is a right footed player, so like many others here on this list, he fits the bills. It may seem that Solskjaer looking for a left footed player is not a definite but gives options, should the need arise. Collins has a good physical aspect to his game, which suits English football, specifically he Championship. Could that help him in the Premier League? Of course. It is suggested that the player could be available for £15 million or more this summer, which could be a good deal should he fit into United’s plans, according to TeamTalk. Solskjaer clearly has many options, many better than Collins but money might be spread thin this summer.
David Carmo, 21 – SC Braga
David Carmo is another recent addition to the apparent list that United have to solve their defensive problems this summer. Whether he is the player that Solskjaer chooses to sign is something that we shall have to wait and see. He signed a new contract back in November 2020, meaning his current contract will end in the summer of 2025. He is a left footed player and can also play in as a defensive midfielder, which would be a good option, should the need arise. He came through Braga as a youth player, making 40 appearance for the club to date and has yet to score or assist a goal.
AS Roma had interest in Carmo whilst struggling to sign Chris Smalling from United last summer, so it shows that he has made waves in Portugal. He has good vision, can dribble and has good progression with the ball and can pass well, which is a good aspect to have and something that Solskjaer needs at the back with United seeking to play a more attacking style of play that does not leave the defence wide open. It is suggested that his release clause has been doubled to €40 million (£34 million), according to The Mirror, which is a big fee and will be something that United sees much of this summer.
Written by Dave Preston