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Man Utd would do well to join Italian giants in enforcer battle

Manchester City, Chelsea and Everton could all do with strengthening their defensive midfield depth in the January transfer window, but it is the lack of tackling in the Manchester United engine room that suggests that it is David Moyes that should be chasing Radja Nainggolan.

Looking at the tackling statistics at the top Premier League clubs, Arsenal have both Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta averaging over three tackles per game this season, Chelsea can count on Ramires and Manchester City on Fernandinho.

However, at Man Utd, Tom Cleverley is the most frequent midfield tackler with an average of 2.1 tackles per game, while deep-sitting midfielder Michael Carrick averages only two.

Nainggolan does not offer too much from an attacking sense at Serie A side Cagliari, but as an enforcer figure in front of the back four, he is a great asset.

The 25-year-old completes 3.8 tacklers per game on average, with only Lucas and West Brom’s Claudio Yacob bettering this in the Premier League so far this season.

What’s more, Nainggolan looks almost certain to leave Cagliari this season, with Sebastien Eriksson already in the club’s ranks to replace him.

A move for Nainggolan would boost his own prospects of making the Belgian World Cup squad, as he has only managed four international caps to date, despite the first coming in 2009.

Furthermore, Cagliari have previously shown a willingness to sell their star players in January for the right price, with Alessandro Matri heading to Juventus for a large sum in January 2011.

AC Milan, Inter and Juventus have all been linked with Nainggolan and if he was to depart for a bigger Serie A club, then AC Milan would have to be considered favourites.

Not only would he probably be guaranteed better first-team opportunities alongside Nigel De Jong at the base of the Milan midfield, but there is also the possibility of some type of swap deal involving teenager Bryan Cristante.

This is the first season since 2001/02 that Man Utd have lost four home games in a season, with Man City and Liverpool among the clubs still to visit Old Trafford.

Man Utd’s odds to finish in the top four this season have drifted back out to 6/4 after their latest home defeat to Tottenham and it is their next batch of away games that may hold the biggest key to this eventuality.

Chelsea and Arsenal are two of Man Utd’s next three on the road, with the other coming against a Stoke side that have already taken points off Man City, Chelsea and Everton at the Britannia this season.