Chris Smalling and Phil Jones both impressed for Manchester United over the second half of the season but Louis van Gaal will still be looking to strengthen the heart of his defence this summer. After all, the club cannot afford to rely on the raw talent of Paddy McNair if they are to be successful.
In the first of a series of articles exploring who Man United should sign, Sam Koster looks at the centre-backs van Gaal may be hoping to bring in.
If you would have asked me a few weeks ago who my number one target was for this position, I would have said Mats Hummels. However, after comparing the German international with Laporte, I was surprised by the results.
Laporte is confident, strong and assured on the ball. The 21-year old is happy to surge forward into opposition territory or play long in an attempt to create chances for his teammates.
Laporte also shows great anticipation in both his heading and tackling and often beats his man to the ball in order to win back possession for his side. On top of this, his calmness on the ball belies his years. United have lacked a defender who can add composure to their back line and Laporte would fit the bill in that respect.
However, the defender must work on a few things if he is to adjust to van Gaal’s philosophy. Chief of which is his decision-making, which at times this season has put his team-mates under unnecessary pressure.
Having won the World Cup with Germany last summer, the majority of fans see Hummels as a potential marquee signing for United. However, this season he has been the subject of scrutiny amongst Borussia Dortmund fans, with some believing the player to have regressed since his World Cup triumph.
In previous seasons, Hummels’ decision-making, awareness, positioning and leadership have all played a big part in Dortmund’s success.
This campaign, however, has been a disappointing one for the 26-year-old. With Dortmund finishing in seventh place in the Bundesliga, Hummels has been criticised following a number of high-profile mistakes. Last week’s 3-1 defeat against VFL Wolfsburg in the DFB-Pokal final eventually rounded off what has been a poor season for the player.
That being said, perhaps a new challenge is exactly what Hummels needs. There is no disputing the defender’s quality and van Gaal may be the best man to help him regain his form.
Otamendi is a passionate, powerful and determined player who always gives his all for the team. Brave in the tackle and composed when under pressure, the Argentinian possesses fantastic concentration levels and frightening pace, which makes him a nightmare for opposition forwards.
However, if United are looking to build for the future there is a question over whether or not the reported €50m price-tag for the 27-year-old is worth it in the long-term.
Regardless of both price and age, Otamendi is an exceptional central defender and one that would go a long way to addressing United’s problems at the back.
It is clear that van Gaal has a lot of thinking to do ahead of the next campaign. Title-winning sides are built on solid defensive partnerships, as John Terry and Gary Cahill have proven at Chelsea this season. United will be expected to challenge next term but many fans feel that their current options are not good enough.