As the winter transfer window approaches, it is looking less and less likely that Manchester United will sign a centre-back just at a time when it is looking more and more necessary.
A good performance against Leicester City yesterday was marred by more inept defending and even in the impressive victory over Leeds United last weekend, two goals were shipped.
United have now conceded 23 goals in the Premier League – the 15th worst record in the competition.
And when English clubs playing in Europe are ranked according to clean sheets, United come bottom of the table – even behind struggling Arsenal.
There are world class defenders becoming available, not necessarily (although not impossibly) in January, but certainly in June. Yet United seem to be distancing themselves from them.
One is David Alaba. The Austrian has refused to sign a new €200,000 per week contract with Bayern Munich and is free to talk to other clubs from Friday as his contract expires in June. As recently reported here, Spanish outlet AS claimed this week that United were leading the chase to sign him – something that would make perfect sense given their need for a ready-made, world class player without another massive transfer fee being involved.
Sadly, though, The Athletic reports that AS’s claims are unfounded.
‘Manchester United have been credited with an interest in the 28-year-old, who can play full-back, centre-back and midfield to an elite standard. But having been made aware of the costs associated with the move, United will not be entering the running, it can be confirmed.
‘Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to maintain a squad of balanced earnings as much as possible and the scale required to secure Alaba would be too great.’
As we said here in that previous article, the £200,000 per week required would be a lot by United’s standards for a centre back, but the fact that they would be able to sign a player with a market value of €65 million (£59m) for nothing in June or next to nothing in January would certainly help to compensate for the high salary.
The other player that the Red Devils have turned their back on is RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano. In November it was revealed by German transfer expert Christian Falk that a deal could be struck in January if a club was to match Upamecano’s €45 million (£40m) release clause that becomes active in June.
Update Dayot Upamecano: the decision about his future could be made in January. then there should be the first offers from the interested Premiere League Clubs (release clause: 45 Millionen Euro). He is currently too expensive for @FCBayern @SPORTBILD
— Christian Falk (@cfbayern) November 18, 2020
Signing the 23-year-old at that price seemed like a no-brainer for United, who have been chasing the Frenchman since he was 16 years old. But again, The Athletic claims that ‘he is no longer a primary target and the Old Trafford side have made clear this is a situation they will not be pursuing.’
So, assuming The Athletic have got their facts right, who are the centre backs on United’s wish list, whether it is for January or June?
Villareal’s Pau Torres and Brighton’s Ben White have been linked but they are arguably a big step down in terms of quality from Alaba and Upamecano.
A world-class centre back could allow United to mount a title challenge, if not this season then certainly in 2021/22. But the fact is that unless Ed Woodward and company have a big surprise up their sleeve, there is likely to be little movement on this front in the foreseeable future.
Edinson Cavani has made quite an impact since his deadline day arrival at Old Trafford, but how much do you know about our other South American players, past and present? Take our quiz below to find out!