Manchester United are set to continue their search for a centre-back partner for Harry Maguire this summer, after a string of unimpressive defensive displays this season. While the Red Devils have long been looking for a defensive partner for the club captain, the need for one has never been more, so who should they sign?
Manchester United Continue Search For a Centre-Back Partner for Harry Maguire
United Look to Plug Leaky Defence
The criticism of Manchester United’s defense stems from Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof struggling to compliment each other. The lack of compatibility is a result of a lack of pace and leadership, which has left the team vulnerable at times; here is a possible list of centre-back partners that could fit into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.
The 22-year old centre-back has been pivotal to Sevilla since he arrived in 2019. He won the Europa League title in his first season and has since established himself as one of the brightest stars in world football. Despite not being as tall as the other defenders on this list, Jules Koundé surprisingly possesses a commanding aerial presence with an average of 3.1 aerial duels per ninety in 1360 minutes of action this season in the La Liga.
His aerial duels per ninety are superior to Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique for this season and translate to 61.5% of aerial duels won. While 61.5% pales in relation to 74.5% from the 2019/20 season, he has been improving other aspects of his game, with Sevilla sitting 4th in the league table; a point behind both Real Madrid and Barcelona. He has a decent frame and pace that could make him a candidate.
The Real Madrid legend and arguably the best defender in the world will be out of contract this summer and seems distant from a possible extension with a club he has been with since 2005. While the soon to be 35-year old may not provide a long-term option, he can certainly provide the experience and leadership needed to push Manchester United up the league table. The Spaniard possesses a winning mentality, which can be observed by his enviable collection of four Champions League titles, five Spanish league titles, a World Cup, and more. Sergio Ramos is renowned for his wide-range of goals that have taken the form of penalties, free-kicks, headers, and more. He bagged his career-best of 13 goals in the 2019/20 season and may be eager for a new challenge.
Another Real Madrid defender that has been touted for a move away from the Bernabéu is Raphaël Varane. Varane has been excellent during his decade-long spell at the club but has been attracting interest elsewhere in recent years. After four Champions League titles and three League titles, it could be time for a change for the long-time Manchester United target. Known as one of the best defenders in world football, The Frenchman can offer a mixture of technical and tactical awareness that could make up for Maguire’s achilles heel. With the Frenchman still being 28-years old, he could finally fancy a move to the Premier League.
A long-time target for the 13-time Premier League champions, Kalidou Koulibaly joined his present club Napoli in 2014. Since then, he has cemented himself as one of the best defenders in the world. The Senegalese international is a tall, aggressive and imposing player. He is known for his aerial prowess, tackling, positioning and good passing ability as a defender. He was voted in the Serie A team of the season four times.
The former Metz player achieved his crowning moment in the 2018/19 season when he was voted the best defender in Serie A for 2018/19. After rumors of his departure in the summer of 2020, Koulibaly might finally get his long-awaited move in 2021.
Manchester United Look to Sign Defensive Stalwart
There is only a handful of players that could fit into the criteria that Manchester United wants. It is uncertain who the three-time Champions League winners could sign, but the need to strengthen could grow by the end of the season, as they have leaked a disappointing 30 league goals in 23 games so far in the 2020/21 season. Until then, Manchester United will look to secure a favorable position in the league table this season.