Super six centre back options for Man Utd boss Van Gaal
Following Manchester United’s penalty victory over Inter Milan on their pre-season tour of the USA, where they are still unbeaten, new boss Louis van Gaal has declared that his side need to strengthen at the back.
“I am looking at the defenders we have first,” the Dutchman said. “And, when you see our three matches [against LA Galaxy, Roma and Inter], we are doing well, I think.
“But it is right that we are looking for defenders, because a lot of defenders have gone.”
Currently at Old Trafford, Van Gaal has young centre back trio Jonny Evans, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling at his disposal, as well as Michael Keane, but, with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic gone, experience is much-needed.
Coral writers therefore put their heads together to make a list of potential players who can give United a defensive boost, with one or two required, especially the latter if Van Gaal is to continue his three-at-the-back system.
World Cup winner and giant German centre back Hummels has been linked with a move to Old Trafford the whole summer, but it seems the chances of the Borussia Dortmund star signing are getting slimmer.
Hummels, 25, was reportedly available for as little as £16m, but his current charismatic manager Jurgen Klopp has shot down those claims, saying: “Mats joining Manchester United? For €20m (£16m)? For such little money you can forget that immediately!”
The former Bayern Munich defender would be the ideal person to replace Ferdinand and Vidic and, although a transfer for Man Utd now seems more unlikely, can Van Gaal produce his magic and lure him to the Theatre of Dreams?
Roma’s Benatia has been a target for both Manchester clubs this transfer window, with the blue half of the city reportedly the preferred option, though. However, with Man City likely to sign Eliaquim Mangala, that could pave the way for United to swoop.
Benatia’s club president James Pallotta has even offered slight hope the 27-year-old could be available. “Benatia? He’s never been on the market. He’s our player and is important for the team and this season,” Pallotta said at first.
But he added about the French-born Morocco international: “You never say never in football. That said, it’s not our intention to lose our best players.”
According to reports, France international starlet Varane, 21, is unhappy at current club Real Madrid, due to his standard contract and bit-part role at the Bernabeu. As a result, Chelsea have been strongly linked, with Blues boss Jose Mourinho keen on managing him once more.
But will Varane want to move to a club where he may lack game time once more, as he will have to compete with the likes of John Terry, Gary Cahill, Branislav Ivanovic and Kurt Zouma for two spots?
Varane would almost certainly be a starter at United but, being still at such a young age, Van Gaal would still need an elder statesman to lead the backline.
With Luis Suarez now at Barcelona, Chiellini would now be safe to move to the Premier League, if he so chooses.
The long-serving commanding Juventus defender would be ideal for Man Utd, especially as he is adept to playing at left back, with Luke Shaw the only first team Red Devil who plays in that position.
But the 29-year-old Italy international bite victim would be very hard to be hooked away at this stage from Turin it seems.
Shawcross came through the youth academy at Old Trafford, but managed only two League Cup appearances for the Red Devils before being sold to Stoke City.
But he really has come into his own at the Britannia, being given the captain’s armband, as well as earning an England cap along the way.
He is just 26 years of age, but is a leader and commanding presence on the pitch, and will know the demands and expectations of the club already. Shawcross would certainly be a cheaper option, but does he possess the quality and presence that Van Gaal desires?
Michael Carrick/Darren Fletcher
An even cheaper option would be to push one of Carrick or Fletcher back into a sweeper role. Midfielders have been converted to top class defenders before, with the likes of Javier Mascherano and Vincent Kompany examples of this.
The Englishman and Scotsman have played centre back before for United, and even together on occasion when needed, and did not disappoint.
Carrick is currently out injured, but Van Gaal even utilised Fletcher in defence in the second half of United’s recent 7-0 win over LA Galaxy. With United also looking to bolster the midfield, one of the duo playing further back could be the answer to their defensive drought.