‘We need a left-footed centre-back, so keep going’. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s words to Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake were loud enough to be caught on camera which has created a media frenzy with many outlets linking the Dutchman with a move to Manchester United. Some have even gone on to report that the Norwegian was ‘tapping-up’ the player after United’s 5-2 win over Bournemouth. However, the United boss admitted he had seven centre-backs in his team and he was happy with the options available despite some clearly needing to leave the club. Although, this doesn’t rule out Manchester United’s hunt for a new centre-back in the summer to partner alongside Harry Maguire at the heart of the Manchester United defence.
Although Victor Lindelof has looked good playing with Maguire, the Swede has been less impressive with his aerial game. Despite the pair earning praise at times during the season, they certainly wouldn’t be the ideal centre-back partnership the club is looking for since both the players are right-footed and are comfortable playing in similar areas of the pitch. Since Maguire lacks the pace to catch up with his opponents at times, United need a pacy defender to play alongside him so that his weaknesses are well covered. Eric Bailly has been played at times alongside the skipper, but due to the unpredictable nature of the Ivorian’s game added to his regular injury woes, Manchester United would want a more reliable option for that role. The Red Devils have been already linked with a number of centre-backs including the likes of Kalidou Koulibaly, Dayot Upamecano, Ben White & Joe Rodon with Nathan Ake turning out to be the latest addition to the list.
A Bit of Background:
Nathan Ake is a product of Chelsea’s youth academy where he joined as a 15-year-old. The Blues who are known for their process of player development using loan stints loaned out Ake to several clubs including Reading, Watford, and Bournemouth. The defender fared well during his loan spells and was recalled by Chelsea in 2017. However, he was permanently sold to the Cherries later that year with a buy-back clause inserted into his contract. He has proved to be a reliable defender for Bournemouth playing under Eddie Howie and managed to put up some good performances for the club.
He has averaged 1.1 tackles and 1.3 interceptions per game this season in the Premier League with an impressive 5.1 clearances per ninety. All these numbers are superior to those of Lindelof who could manage only about 0.7 tackles and 0.6 interceptions per game. He is almost similar to Lindelof in the aspect of chance creation and key passes per game and there’s hardly anything between them statistically. However, the Dutchman is not well equipped with his aerial game either and if Man United are looking at a well-rounded centre-half, Ake might not be the ideal fit at least in the immediate future.
He wins just 47.5 percent of his aerial battles placing him 58th for aerial duel success in the league. Manchester United’s style of play requires players who are capable of handling the aerial balls and they could find themselves having to deal with a number of them during the game. He stands at only 5’-11” which is the key reason for his poor aerial game and would become the joint shortest centre-back in the United team alongside Phil Jones if he was to make a move to Manchester.
The quoted price for his services is in the region of £40m, a figure not worth investing considering the weakness to his game. Thus, Manchester United do need to step away from the Dutchman and search for a centre-half elsewhere to build a solid centre-back partnership with Harry Maguire and start challenging for major honours.