Defensive Options: Manchester United seeking defensive stability this summer…


Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has a big summer transfer window ahead of him, despite working as a pundit for Russia television during the FIFA World Cup this summer, also having to prepare for the pre-season tour of the United States of America with many of his senior players out of action, for some, most, or all of the tour because of their participation in the World Cup. Mourinho needs to strengthen his squad this summer, correctly, in order to make up the distance Manchester City have gained on them this season.

At the end of the season, Mourinho needed to strengthen his defence, the midfield, and the attack, in different areas, in order to give Pep Guardiola’s side a run for their money in the battle for the Premier League title next season. Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal will also strengthen to ensure they are better placed next season, so for all, it will be a tough summer, even for Guardiola. The area up for discussion here is the defence…

Towards the end of the season, it was suggested that Mourinho would be seeking to sign a right-back, a left-back, and a central defender. On Tuesday, United announced the signing of 19-year-old Portuguese right-back Diogo Dalot. It would suggest that because of his age and lack of experience at first team level, the right back position was not all that critical this season with Dalot given the necessary time to adapt to the English game and find his feet.

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As for the left-back position was one which United were said to be needing to strengthen with Luke Shaw seemingly on his way out of the club and Ashley Young, the first-choice left-back for the majority of last season, not getting any younger. United have been linked to Juventus left-back Alex Sandro but despite reports, no offer has been made and it looks like the player could sign a renewal with the Italian club. As for Shaw, it has been reported by The Independent on Thursday that he will remain at the club and Mourinho will no longer seek to fortify the position.

However, if Mourinho wants to strengthen the left-back role, Demetri Mitchell, who had a good half-season loan with Hearts, which ended prematurely because of injury. The player has played under Mourinho and it is possible that the 21-year-old could be given the chance in pre-season and may force his way into Mourinho’s plans over the forthcoming season if he is not sent out for another spell on loan that is. The lad has the potential and Hearts supporters will tell you how good he was for them whilst on loan.

As for the centre of the defence, Mourinho has Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind and Axel Tuanzebe at the club at this moment in time. It is suggested that Blind could be tempted with a move away from the club, with Inter Milan seemingly interested in him, and Tuanzebe could spend the season on loan, it was less than successful for him with Aston Villa as he rarely played and suffered an injury, ending his spell at the club. He has the talent to succeed at the club too.

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United have been strongly linked to Tottenham Hotspur defender Toby Alderweireld. It was suggested in May that United were confident of a £40 million deal for the Belgian. A few weeks ago, it was suggested that the Belgian will cost Mourinho £55 million, and earlier this week, Alderweireld, whilst on international duty ahead of the FIFA World Cup, spoke to the media and suggested that he had no control over where he goes this summer, as it is expected that Spurs will cash in on the player.

On Thursday, it was suggested that talks between United and Spurs reached an impasse, with Daniel Levy seeking more than £55 million for the Belgian, which is what United value the player at. You need to remember that in a year’s time, a clause in Alderweireld’s contract will activate which will allow him to leave the club for just £25 million. That would suggest to me that anything over £55 million would be excessive if those reports are in fact true. Spurs may just be simulating a saga to show that it is the player that forced a move, rather than them selling to a rival.

United have also been linked to Clement Lenglet this summer, despite credible reports materialising earlier this week from L’Equipe, and his agent speaking about his future, suggesting that a decision would be made before the end of the month as both United and Barcelona are currently reported as having an interest in the 22-year-old. Obviously, Alderweireld is the player that many want to the club finalise a deal for, at 29, he is experienced, both in Europe and in the Premier League, he could also be that leader at the back that is required.

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Many have moaned about the playing style during Mourinho’s reign at the club. Mourinho is a defensive minded manager but he has been known to have great attacking sides in the past. United have a decent squad but in terms of solidity at the back, despite conceding just one more goal that Manchester City in the Premier League, the defence is not steel and stone that it has been in the past. Look recently at Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, if the duo were younger, they would still be commanding the back line today.

United have lots of talent such as Lindelof, Bailly, and Rojo, but there is a calamity there at times, normally in the form of Jones and Smalling. If United had a back line that Mourinho trusted not to make mistakes and get injured just then rotation was needed, Jones has form for this, the upheaval of the squad and leads to more mistakes, of which United have made many of. The fullback positions seem likely to be sorted now, with Mourinho seeking to spend money in other positions, so having Antonio Valencia and Dalot at right-back, Young and Shaw at left-back, that might be it.

Not forgetting the fact that Dalot has played at left-back whilst with FC Porto and Mitchell is a player who could find himself being utilised more, not to mention Timothy Fosu-Mensah, who has spent the season on loan with Crystal Palace, mostly playing at right-back despite this not being his main position. The Dutchman could come in as a central defender, at right-back or even in midfield. Mourinho seems to have prioritised other areas which require strengthening more than the fullback places. He may even head into the new season without a new central defender.

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