United is out of luck in the transfer window. A team that has managed to secure Champions League qualification has only recently strengthened its squad with the versatile and astute Donny van de Beek from Ajax. Rumours were circulating that Sancho had agreed personal terms with United, but talks were stalled due to the asking price. The whole Sancho ordeal is a topic on its own and won’t be discussed here. This preamble was put here to highlight how even though United did exemplary work in finishing third in the Premier League (while losing out in the semis of both the FA and Europa League), reinforcement has been lacking. This is especially concerning given how we expect United to be fighting for all honors this season.
38/38. Maguire became the first outfield player in 25 years to play every minute of a Premier League season for the Red Devils
But transfer speculation is not the point of this light read, rather today’s focus is on what our centre-back pairing could potentially look like for the majority of the upcoming season. They say peace comes from within, so we will have a look at players that are currently contracted at United before looking elsewhere. As I believe that Maguire will again be the first name on the team sheet this season again, I will be delving at who would be the best centre-back to pair with him.
Chris “Mike” Smalling
Terrific under Louis van Gaal, but ever since he left he has not hit the heights since those seasons. Loaned out to Roma last season and being pivotal in their campaign, it is unlikely that he will be selected to start this season given that it may look like he is heading to Roma on a permanent basis. We wish him all the best going forward should the transfer pull through.
Victor Lindelof has been a solid signing for United. The “Iceman” has, with Maguire and company, managed to keep 13 clean sheets in the league. Calm and composed on the ball, he’s main weakness is his aerial ability. Beaten a few times in the air should be worrisome for any team, especially one contending for titles. If United do not end up recruiting this window, he still remains the best centre-back to pair with Maguire
At first I thought he would be the signing to solidify our defensive back-line. Every time I watch him he reminds me a bit of Vidic. Dominant, strong, quick and goes in hard for the tackle. Biggest gripe I have is that he is so consistently injury prone that we only get to see him a few times in the year. He would be the perfect foil to Maguire. Whereas Maguire is solid in the air, Bailly would do the job on the ground. But alas such things are not meant to be.
Tuanzebe is also in contention for a spot alongside Maguire. His speed and strength make him a very difficult defender to get past, and his positioning is usually very good. He had an injury riddled season at Aston Villa while he was on loan and went in for surgery on his foot. He has since returned and could be available as soon as October.
Teden Mengi has been touted as the next big thing out of the United Academy. Mengi is a driven young player who has already been commended and singled out for praise because of his impressive maturity. He played for the senior, u18 and even the reserves sides last season. Pretty impressive given that he is only 18. Mengi is known for his pace and his versatility, even though he normally plays left-back at the youth level. While being a first team starter may be off the cards as he is still developing, he could be the one for the future for the Red Devils.
Marcos Rojo is still a United player believe it or not. After being sent on loan to Estudiantes last season, he has been told (along with Smalling) to train separately apart from the rest of the squad. This is basically signalling that he is going to be sold within the remaining transfer window.
Phil Jones has been left in the dark for quite some time. It was really sad to hear that he did not want to have a testimonial as he jokingly said no one would go. Injuries have been detrimental to his career at United. Whenever it looks like he is gaining momentum and looking like the player we knew he could be, an injury would hit him at the worst time. The loss of confidence could be seen whenever he would make a return from injury. With United looking to compete on all fronts, I don’t see Phil Jones being a part of Ole’s plan this season.
Now looking to possible transfers United could sign. The first that is on everyone’s mind is Kalidou Koulibaly. With rumors citing that he may leave for City or PSG, he would be a wonderful addition for any team. A physically strong yet elegant player, Koulibaly is recognised for his aerial prowess, anticipation, positioning, tackling, character, technique, and passing ability as a defender. He has also been praised by pundits for his overall solidity as a player, and his ability to make interceptions; however, he has also drawn criticism for giving away too many fouls. Basically what Bailly is without injuries. Him coming to United is unlikely to happen but one can dream.
The next centre back who would be the perfect match to play with Maguire is Benoit Badiashile from AS Monaco (We love to raid them for young stars it seems). He is quick, calm on the ball and can bully players if need be. With a reported asking price of £25 million, a move for the 19-year-old would represent extremely shrewd business.