It doesn’t take a tactical defensive genius to work out that there have been times over the course of the past few seasons that Manchester United have been the worse side in matches, yet have come out on the winning side due to David De Gea’s heroics. There are defensive frailties and now it looks as though De Gea won’t be available to save United’s backsides for much longer, the club must be in the market to strengthen the defence. Whilst Chris Smalling has hugely impressed Louis van Gaal and supporters in recent months, so much so that he was recently given a new and improved contract at the club, there have been question marks over the credentials of the long term positions of fellow centre backs Phil Jones and especially Johnny Evans.
Whilst youngsters Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett as well as Michael Carrick and Daley Blind have filled in at centre back at times under Van Gaal, it is evident that this is a position that needs strengthening. Not so long ago Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were main stays of the United defence. A perfect blend of calmness and steel in United’s back line. Those days have gone though and although the Jones and Smalling pairing may be good enough, reinforcements are needed.
Is Hummels The Answer??
Since the season ended and media outlets and supporters started to begin obsessing over transfer gossip due to the lack of football matches taking place, United have been constantly linked with Mats Hummels of Borussia Dortmund. A major part of the Germany squad that won the World Cup last year, as well as plenty of experience of the Bundesliga, it has been suggested that he is looking for pastures new. If Manchester United are looking for a direct replacement for Rio Ferdinand, then it is Hummels who is sure to be the preferred option. Like Ferdinand, Hummels isn’t afraid of letting players run at him before taking the ball off their toes just in the nick of time. When in possession himself, Hummels has the ability to stay calm under pressure and look as though nothing fazes him.
Sometimes his abundance of confidence does give the occasional goal away as he is prone to the odd error, but his pedigree speaks for itself. The centre back position isn’t normally the one that makes players a house hold name, but he is an exception to the rule. A world class defender who is proven at the highest level, Hummels is surely a player that United must be in the market for. With two years left on his contract and a reported fee of around £30 million and required wages of around £125,000 a week, a move for him is easily affordable and not out of the question. The biggest clubs in the world go for the best players so it is only a matter of time before Dortmund depart with their long serving centre back.
Could Varane Be The Long-Term Answer??
Like Hummels, Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane is bound to be on United’s radar. Although not universally loved in Madrid- yet not even Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale are so this is perhaps an unfair statement to make- Varane is one of the most complete centre backs in world football. His ability to read the game and ‘tidy up’ dangerous situations is exactly what Manchester United require. A criticism of United’s defensive line is that there is not enough pace when opposition attackers are able to break in behind them in one on one situations. If a striker finds himself through on goal, United’s defence often finds itself chasing lost shadows. Whilst these situations may still arise if Mats Hummels was to join the club instead, fans can be rest assured that there would be no such problem with Varane. The Frenchman is at times freakily fast when running off the ball. In Real Madrid training sessions, he is said to be the only player who can compete with Ronaldo and Bale in a foot race.
Van Gaal likes his teams to play with pace. What would be better than sticking to his philosophy and building a speedy defence? Alongside his colossal body strength, Varane is a serious option for United. There will be competition for his signature, the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea and Bayern Munich are also thought to be preparing bids for him, but United’s financial muscle should be able to shake off any competition. With the option to use David De Gea as a bargaining tool for a number of Real Madrid’s players of their choosing, it is looking increasingly likely that Varane will be seen in the red half of Manchester sooner rather than later.
Would Pique Return To Old Trafford??
Since returning to his boyhood club from Manchester United in 2008, Gerard Pique has won every trophy imaginable for both Barcelona and Spain. There are not many players who have the trophy cabinet that Pique possesses. The only players who can really compare to the prizes he has won are his Catalonian teammates. With fantastic technique and passing ability, it is clear to see why he has reached the very pinnacle of world football. It is often said that players need a change of scenery in order to keep fresh in their careers.
Having proven himself at Barcelona, maybe it is time for a change for Pique? If made available for transfer, every other top club in Europe will be after his signature and be willing to pay a huge price for him. Whilst this looks like the total opposite of his situation in reality- he is still in love with Barcelona and the success being attached to that club brings, not to mention his more than content personal life- it would be good if United could test Barcelona’s resolve with an offer. In comparison to Varane and Hummels he may seem quite unattainable but he is not a player in which United would be turning down if given the chance.
Play The Waiting Game!
Only Ed Woodward and Louis van Gaal know exactly who their defensive targets are. The names of Varane, Hummels and possibly Pique will have been mentioned in conversations and emails between the pair. Only time will tell who will finally be seen holding up a Manchester United scarf in front of Carrington training ground over the course of the next weeks. Maybe none of these three will be arriving. Tiago Silva, Andrea Barzagli, Marquinhos, Diego Godin, Ezequiel Garay and John Stones are just a smattering of other names that have been linked to the club recently.
There will be top players arriving before United head off to their pre season tour in the United States in mid July. Supporters- for the time being at least- just have to play the waiting game.
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