Four central defenders that could greatly improve Manchester United this summer

Manchester United have endured a tough 2020/21 season which resulted in them finishing second in the Premier League, reaching the quarter-final of the Emirates FA Cup, the semi-final of the Carabao Cup and the final of the UEFA Europa League, after exiting the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. It has been clear that Harry Maguire is the player that gives United their best chance of defending with both Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly not competent enough without the captain on the pitch, which was shown in the latter stages of the season after Maguire was injured in the victory over Aston Villa. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted another defender last summer but did not end up with one. This summer should be much different though…

Pau Torres, 24 – Villarreal and Spain

The 24-year-old has been linked to United since last summer with suggestions that Solskjaer wanted a left footed central defender to partner Harry Maguire. A year later, United are still linked to the Spanish international but after his performances this season, cupped with his performance in the UEFA Europa League final last week, in which Villarreal beat United 11-10 one penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time. Torres is a top defender and will have found himself more interest amongst some of the biggest teams in European football. It has been reported by The Athletic that UEFA Champions League holders, Chelsea are interested in Torres this summer, which could lead to problems for United signing the player, if the reports are true.

It seems that Chelsea have other targets and Torres could be a fall back option in case other targets did not materialise this summer. It might not be the best predicament for the Spaniard who at one stage seemed to be United’s first-choice option, especially after the Europa League final. He is an upgrade on Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly – not that it would be hard to achieve that feat. One other problem here is Torre’s recent comments, reported by ESPN, who has stated that he is fully committed to Villarreal’s UEFA Champions League campaign next season, which may just be a necessary comment to calm down speculation ahead of Euro 2020, which had been delayed from last summer. United would have to pay €65 million (£55.9 million) for him this summer.

Raphaël Varane, 28 – Real Madrid and France

The 28-year-old was a priority for Sir Alex Ferguson back in 2011 after the player left RC Lens for Real Madrid which resulted in United signing Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers instead. For years now, Varane has been linked to United as their pursuit to settle the defence continues after the signings of Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire. There is a lot of speculation surrounding Varane, especially with Zinedine Zidane leaving the Spanish club this summer and Carlo Ancelotti replacing him, leaving Everton after two years at the club. Spanish source COPE have reported that Varane will leave the Madrid club this summer and there is suggestions of a £35 million fee set by the Spanish club with his contract expiring next summer.

Under Ancelotti’s first reign in Madrid (2013 to 2015), the Frenchman struggled for game time and that could well be the case again. The Madrid club needs to rebuild and that will mean getting rid of a number of players to fund a rebuild. Ancelotti will be up for the challenge and many players will be seeking exits to other big clubs for new challenges or whatever it is they use to motivate them. Chelsea have been long-term admirers of the player too, and they will be seeking big names to join them this summer in a big to covert their Champions League glory into domestic honours, it being a few years since they won the Premier League. Madrid also have the option to renew the contract of Varane too, which some suspect that is what this is all about.

Jules Koundé, 22 – AS Monaco and France

The 22-year-old has been seen as a hot property in European football for well over a year now and United were seemingly interested in signing the Frenchman last summer, despite only moving from FC Girondins de Bordeaux the summer prior to that. Koundé is contracted at the principality club until the summer of 2024 so the fee suggested for the player will be a big one, but comparative to other names on the radar for United, and other clubs, this summer. The Frenchman is also linked to Chelsea this summer and after their Champions League victory over Manchester City last weekend, and the fact Thomas Tuchel manages the club, it could be more tempting than United for the 22-year-old.

The Athletic reported that Koundé is in the plans of Tuchel this summer, but with the transfer window a week away from opening here in England and the foreign window opening on the 1 July, there will be plenty of time for clubs to get deals done. United always tend to be slow in the transfer market and despite the changes made at the club this year, many supporters do not expect things to be much different. It has been reported that Koundé’s fee will be upwards of £50 million, which is comparative of other players linked to the club this summer and considering the age of the player and the future he has ahead of him, it could be money well spent. He seems to be more linked to Chelsea this summer, which could be a preferred destination.

Nikola Milenković, 22 – ACF Fiorentina and Serbia

The 23-year-old would be the bargain buy this summer and United have held a lot of interest in the player with him linked last summer and once again this summer. He will be out of contract at Fiorentina in a year’s time, so this will be the last transfer window that the club could recoup money for the player. The player is likely to be available for around £25 million this summer, which is the cheapest player in this group of four, also being five years younger than Varane. Fiorentina would like to keep hold of the player, but so far that has been no agreement in a new contract, which at a certain point would have to result in the player being sold. It was suggested that United had an easy swoop for the Serbian but that does not seem the case any longer.

Arsenal and West Ham United have both been credited with interest in the Serbian but with the former not involved in any European football this summer – not even a trip to Wales (unless they are drawn against a Welsh club in any of the domestic cup competitions), it may seem unlikely that Arsenal could sign the player – who will certainly have bigger dreams than playing for the club that finished eighth in the Premier League. West Ham have qualified for the Europa League group stage, which will ensure their season becomes a tough one, playing on Thursday’s and Sunday’s for much of the first half of the season. Perhaps the Hammers will end up with him as both Torres and Varane should be the main options for United this summer.

Written by John Walker

Central Defender options that Manchester United could sign this summer

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

Five central defenders Manchester United should be seeking to sign this summer

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will need to sign a central defender at the club this summer after the defence did not perform to the best of their abilities, despite recovering from conceding 54 goals in the Premier League alone during the 2018/19 season, and conceding just 36 goals in the 2019/20 season, becoming the third best defence in the league – conceding one goal more than Manchester City and three more than reigning champions Liverpool.

It has been suggested that United will be seeking to sign a winger, a central midfielder and a defender this summer. Lots of names have been linked to the club this summer. On Monday, I published an article which talked about five other options for the right-wing position other than Jadon Sancho, which seemed to be well received. This articles will talk about five different defenders that could be good for United sign this summer. Some of them have been linked to the club already, some have not.

Here are five options that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could pursue to actually sign a central defender this summer…

Dayot Upamecano, 21, RB Leipzig (right-footed)

The 21-year-old Frenchman has been linked to United already this summer and was targeted by the club whilst still a teenager with United not actually ending up signing the player. Granted, he is not left-footed but he would be an upgrade to United’s defence. Upamecano plays in a similar position as Maguire at United, on the left side of the central defence, despite being right-footed. His attributes tick all the boxes though and him signing for United would start to address some problems.

Contracted until the summer of 2023, the 21-year-old will be on the transfer wish lists of many clubs around Europe. He signed his last contract extension at he end of July 2020. During the course of the 2019/20 season, which saw RB Leipzig reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, defeated 3-0 by finalists Paris Saint-Germain, Upamecano made a total of 38 appearances for his club, scoring no goals and adding two assists. He can play in either central defensive position, also as a defensive midfielder, although he did not play in that position during the course of the season.

Pau Torres, 23, Villarreal (left-footed)

The Spaniard is one of the most sought-after players in Europe this summer and has already been linked to United. With Solskjaer seemingly seeking a left-footed defender this summer, having been linked to Nathan Ake and Gabriel Magalhaes. Torres is described as a textbook Spanish defender with good distribution, is comfortable on the ball and gets involved in buildup play. Torres has also been likened to former United and current Barcelona defender, Gerard Pique.

Torres is contracted until the summer of 2024, signing his last contract in October 2019. During the course of the 2019/20 season, the 23-year-old made a total of 36 appearances for his club, scoring two goals and two assists. The player could be available for less than £50 million this summer, which would be a big investment for United but they would be getting a defender who could quickly become a competent defender at the club and a player that could help United lift trophies.

Alessio Romagnoli, 25, AC Milan (left-footed)

The Italian is the oldest player in this article but at 25 still has a lot to do in the game. His is the captain of Milan and his leadership, at the back, would be a great addition for United. Romagnoli is aggressive, commanding and authoritative and has an excellent passing range and is often looking to break down the opposition by breaking down passes and distributing the ball forwards to put his team on the attack. This type of player could work well alongside Harry Maguire at United.

His current contract will expire in the summer of 2022, signing his last contract in the summer of 2018. There is a chance his club will be sitting down with him to renew his contract, but that could be something United could thwart if they had interest in the player this summer. The 25-year-old can play in either central defensive position, also filling in at left-back, should he need to. During the 2019/20 season, the player made a total of 39 appearances, scoring one goal.

Dan-Axel Zagadou, 21, Borussia Dortmund (left-footed)

The Frenchman plays for Borussia Dortmund, so because of the Jadon Sancho transfer seemingly faltering, United might not want to start negotiations with this player. That said, the player does not see any reason to leave the German club this summer, despite his contract expiring in the summer of 2022. United might have many other options themselves regarding this position, and Zagadou might not even be on their list, although based on the future he could have, he should be.

That said, his injury problems could be a concern, which is unfortunate. He seems to have suffered a few knee related injuries recently, which might suggest an underlining problem for the future. During the 2019/20 season, Zagadou made a total of 22 appearances for his club, scoring one goal and one assists. He played a total of 26 minutes for his club in the final two matches of the season, returning from his latest knee injury. The played is said to be extremely strong, robust and has an aerial presence at the back, which would be good for United moving forward.

Victor Nelsson, 21, FC Copenhagen (right-footed)

The Danish youth international has a good future ahead of him. He would be considered as the wild card addition in this article purely based on how he played when United faced FC Copenhagen in the quarter final of the UEFA Europa League earlier this month. United struggled to get the better of their opposition in that first match in Germany, needing extra time and a penalty to beat them. Nelsson played well in that match and really threw himself into challenges and blocks to give his side the defensive advantage.

The 21-year-old is contracted until the summer of 2024 at his club, so they have no reason to sell but a move to United could be a good one for the player. During the 2019/20 season, Nelsson made 54 appearances for his club, not scoring a single goal but adding one assist. Mainly a central defender, Nelsson can also play in the defensive midfield position, as well as the central midfield position, although has not played in either midfield role during the course of the season.

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW