As we look back at Manchester United’s season so far, it’s clear Ole’s Gunnar Solskjær’s backline is failing to mirror the contribution of Bruno Fernandes and his attacking cohort.
With 24 goals conceded and three defensive errors leading directly to a goal, Manchester United have shaken off a dismal start to the 2020/21 campaign to begin the new year in a vastly improved second place in the Premier League.
The Red Devils are now three points ahead of Liverpool, but given their Merseyside rivals let seven slip past them at Aston Villa early in the season, buying a trustworthy centre back might have — and still could — make a world of difference.
Nevertheless, with a backline so prone to blunders are Manchester United serious title contenders, or is the ‘Fernandes effect’ papering over gaping inadequacies in Ole’s defensive setup?
Read on as we explore why a new defender is needed at United and who the bookies think could be available in the near future.
Why Manchester United need a defender
“Once again it was impossible to ignore the alarming weakness at the heart of his (Ole Gunnar Solskjær) defence.” — Forbes.com
A matter of months ago fans were calling for managerial change after Spurs thumped home six goals at Old Trafford, much to the delight of Jose Mourinho. Since then United have clawed up the table largely on attacking merit, scoring thirteen goals and keeping only one clean sheet in their last five matches.
Without improving from a defensive standpoint over January you feel United are only a Maguire slip away from unravelling all the hard work up to this point.
Refreshing the squad with backup feels like a great idea, but Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones are both reportedly leaving the club this year — and Brandon Williams is a top loan target for Southampton, thereby leaving a talented, yet extremely inexperienced Tuanzebe as the only viable option.
Assuming Harry Maguire continues to be a nailed starter, Ole only has to choose an inconsistent Victor Lindelof to plug the remaining spot — or pin his hopes on Eric Bailly’s sporadic fitness.
Before Woodward resumes his chase for Jadon Sancho it’s clear Manchester United’s bid for title contention relies on defensive consistency, along with a brand new centre back.
Which defenders the bookies link to Manchester United
“Every season numerous players are linked to clubs in the January transfer window, but this season is proving especially difficult for sports betting sites to predict.” — OnlineCasinos.co.uk
Online casinos are finding football difficult to reliably analyse under the looming scope of coronavirus. After all, it’s difficult enough to know if a game will go ahead, let alone muddle through a potential transfer saga.
But with Jurgen Klopp reportedly playing down a defensive move this transfer window, suddenly Ole looks to have the go-ahead to swoop in and bag himself a star.
Here are a few names who keep cropping up:
– Dayot Upamecano: an exceedingly talented french defender oozing with potential. The odds of Manchester United signing him look good, but they’d have to compete with Bayern Munich for his signature.
– Jules Kounde: a 22-year-old star, the Frenchmen currently plies his trade at Sevilla FC in La Liga. This would mean Utd beating Pep Guardiola to one of his targets, but it’ll come at a reported £72 million.
Both of these players are highly sought after by club rivals and world-class teams, so in a market where sums head north of £70 million, it’s these bidding wars that Manchester United need to win to start challenging for the title.
Do any of the options have the ‘Fernandes effect’?
Not since Salah’s arrival at Anfield in 2016 has a Premier League signing been so immediately transformative as Bruno Fernandes, though perhaps it’s wise for Ed Woodward to invest big at centre back in the same vein as Manchester City and Liverpool have with Ruben Dias and Virgil Van Dijk respectively.
It’s unclear whether either Kounde or Upamecano can hit the ground running quite like Bruno, in fact, it’s incredibly unlikely given the playmaker is such an enigma. But an injection of quality in defence during such a topsy turvy season could be exactly what Manchester United need.