Three centre-back options United should consider this summer
Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire have formed a relatively strong partnership at the heart of the Manchester United defence this season.
The proof is in the pudding; United conceded the third-least goals in the Premier League this season (36), just three more than Liverpool who boasted the best defence (33).
With that being said, Phil Jones looks done at the club, as does Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo, which could leave Ole Gunnar Solskjaer short of options next season.
Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe currently stand as back-up, but both have struggled with injury problems and Solskjaer now seems intent of adding a new face to his back line.
Here are three options I believe are realistic, ahead of the 2020/21 campaign...
Dayot Upamecano has evolved into one of the most sought-after centre-halves in Europe at RB Leipzig, but United could have signed him for free back in 2015.
Upamecano was a highly-rated 16-year-old prospect at Valenciennes when he was invited to look around Carrington, but United failed to capitalise and he ended up joining Red Bull Salzburg for just €2.2million.
The 21-year-old quickly made to jump over to Leipzig and has played a pivotal role in Julian Nagelsmann’s side’s Bundesliga title challenge and Champions League campaign this season.
He made 36 appearances in all competitions this term alongside Ibrahima Konate and has been widely lauded for his no-nonsense tackling and ball-playing abilities.
It’s most interesting to note that United could snap up Upamecano for what seems like a bargain though.
The France Under-21 international is yet to break into the men’s national team, which could play a part in lowering his value anyway, but he’s entering the final year of his Leipzig contract and they seem set to sell.
With that being said, he’s said to be available for just €40million (£35million) and could seriously be worth the investment if Solskjaer is as keen on him as reports suggest.
Gabriel dos Santos Magalhaes
United should seriously be looking at Gabriel dos Santos Magalhaes.
The 22-year-old looked immense at Lille this season and is thought to be the next superstar to emerge from the French club’s distinguished academy set-up.
After breaking into the first team in the latter stages of last term, Gabriel was ever-present this time around and whilst it’s sometimes difficult to establish a player’s quality in a league of Ligue 1’s quality, his form has extended into the Champions League too.
A Brazil Under-23 international, Gabriel turned up against the likes of Ajax, Chelsea and Valencia in Europe’s elite competition but he still seems to be under the radar of many clubs seeking central defenders.
Similarly to a certain United full-back, his style of play is built around his lean physique and spindly long legs which makes him incredibly difficult to get past in one-on-one situations and dominant in the air.
Imagine two Aaron Wan-Bissakas in Solskjaer’s defence, never mind one?!
Gabriel has showed high levels of composure and an eye-catching ability to play long balls to either flank to set up counter-attacks, which would complement Solskjaer’s style of play to perfection.
He’s also been known to force attackers to play with their back to goal using his pace and strength, and should be able to be snapped up for a relatively cheap price.
The Reds could beat the price and secure his services for a bargain price this summer – he looks a real gem.
Trust the youth...
If Axel Tuanzebe can stay fit, he has an undoubted amount of quality at his disposal and could save United a lot of money.
The 22-year-old has even been touted as a potential future captain at Old Trafford, recording his first captaincy against Rochdale earlier this season, but injuries have seen him be limited to just six starts under Solskjaer.
Tuanzebe, a former Jimmy Murphy Young Player and Denzil Haroun Reserve Team Player of the Year award winner, is contracted to United until 2022 and will be eyeing more opportunities in the near future.
You could dip further into the club’s youth system though, where there are two exciting candidates in particular who have caught the eye of late; Di’Shon Bernard and Teden Mengi.
Bernard, 19, was a regular in the heart of the Under-23s’ defence this season, making 16 appearances in all competitions.
He harvested praise from Solskjaer after he made his first-team debut alongside five other academy stars against Astana last year, unfortunately netting an own-goal in the 2-1 defeat.
Bernard boasts bags of aggression and leadership qualities though, similarly to his U23s team-mate, Mengi.
Manchester-born and bred, Mengi is blessed with unparalleled athletic abilities and hasn’t looked back since making his Under-18s debut three years ago.
He was the captain of the Under-16s before that and has continued to develop his leadership qualities all the way through to the U23s, where he impressed in Neil Wood’s side this term.
Mengi’s quick impression also earnt him a place in the travelling squad to Astana last year, but he was an unused substitute in what would’ve been a valuable experience, nonetheless.
His height, aerial ability and composure puts him in really good stead to enjoy an excellent future at United.
Fans could see Mengi in action for the first time against LASK Linz in the Europa League round of 16, second leg clash at Old Trafford next week.