Manchester United are preparing a defensive overhaul of Erik ten Hag’s squad, with two defenders expected to be targeted in the summer transfer window.
The Manchester Evening News reveals the club want “two defensive incomings”, with Jeremie Frimpong and Edmond Tapsoba – both of Bayer Leverkusen – potential options at the end of the season.
Old Trafford scouts are “continuing to monitor” both defenders, who have formed a key part of Xabi Alonso’s undefeated Leverkusen side.
The German club currently lead Bundesliga, having not lost a single game all season. They are five points clear of Bayern Munch with a better goal difference, having emphatically defeated Thomas Tuchel’s side 3-0 on the weekend.
Leverkusen are through to the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal, having defeated VfB Stuttgart in dramatic fashion last week.
They have also progressed to the last sixteen of the Europa League, as they comfortably topped their group with six wins from six.
It’s been as impressive a season as it gets for the German club.
Their overwhelming success stems from Alonso’s dominant 3-4-3 system. The wing-back system creates constant overloads down either channel, while freeing up his front three to move around freely in order to confuse opposition defences. Frimpong and Tapsoba have both been central to this system.
Frimpong is a dominant force at right wing-back. The Dutchman is given complete freedom to push forward, provide a constant outlet for his team and spending more time in the opposition box than his own.
Eight goals and nine assists in all competitions underscores just what an attacking force Frimpong has been this year.
But this attacking mentality has not come at the cost of defensive stability, however. In fact, Inter Milan are the only side to have conceded fewer league goals than Leverkusen across Europe’s top five leagues this season.
Tapsoba has formed a dominant unit, alongside Jonathan Tah and Odilon Kossounou, at the heart of Alonso’s defence, which, in turn, enables Frimpong and Alex Grimaldo to push forward from their respective wing-back positions.
The Burkinabé defender is comfortable on either side of defence, though he primarily plays at LCB for Leverkusen. His athleticism makes him strong in one-on-ones, while also allowing him to effectively cover large spaces, often vacated by Grimaldo.
The 25-year-old is also excellent in possession, ranking highly across every metric for passing and ball progression.
The Manchester Evening News report suggests Old Trafford officials are targeting a “young and athletic” centre-back this summer.
It’s also believed a more suitable alternative to Martinez is desired, such is the drop in performance when the Argentine is ruled out, as he has been for large parts of this season.
Tapsoba fits the bill perfectly.
The report also indicates United “held discussions” with Frimpong’s representatives last year, but decided against a move, owing to Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s improved form.
With the Englishman having fallen down the pecking order under Ten Hag again this season, a new right-back appears a priority this summer.
While Frimpong signed a new deal with Leverkusen in October, this contract is though to include a €40 million release clause which becomes active at the end of the season.
As such, the Dutchman appears a strong candidate for any top club looking to strengthen the right side of their defence in the summer.
A double swoop on the BayArena may therefore be on the cards for Old Trafford officials this summer.