There are three everlasting things in the world: death, taxes and Manchester United’s need for a new centre-back. For the first two there are explanations — one is a constant of life and the other was made just to piss you off — for the latter, there’s not. United’s lack of a high quality and experienced defender has been a fact recognised worldwide by anyone who has any conception of the English club’s current state.
And yet, no player has taken over Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic’s places since their departure in 2014. Mike "formerly known as Chris" Smalling has certainly improved but he’s still prone to the occasional brain fart, and Eric Bailly is an exciting prospect but he’s far too young to be leading the defence. On the other hand, Phil Jones is the first name on the injury list and Marcos Rojo, well, he just plain sucks. Another name might be Axel Tuanzebe and while he has shown promise in the under-21s, he is lacking a lot of experience in this level.
It’s no wonder that new
Portuguese overlord manager José Mourinho wants an experienced centre back, so lets give you a brief analysis of the centre-back options that we have been reading in the media for the past weeks, plus a couple of surprises of our own.
Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus)
Winner of five Scudetti with Juventus, skillful with the ball at his feet, mighty without it, great timing and a natural leader. The Italian, at 29 years old, is the complete package. Also near impossible to sign.
Bonucci is currently playing at a better structured team and has been tagged with a hefty price (60 million pounds). Worthy of the price or not, Chelsea and Manchester City are reportedly also interested in his signature.
While the former Bari player would be a massive upgrade on United’s defence, it’s looking like an unlikely move at this time.
Kostas Manolas (AS Roma)
The Greek defender was an exciting target considering his age (25), pace and Vida-esque intensity to mark. But after Antonio Rüdiger tore his ACL, Roma are not interested in selling their best defender. Especially considering the clause in his contract that means his former club, Olympiacos, get 50% of the transfer fee if he is sold before the end of this window, which won’t be a good business for the Italian side.
Manolas would clearly improve United’s flaws at the back four, but Roma don’t have any need to sell.
Ezequiel Garay (Zenit)
José Fonte (Southampton)
I would like to start by stating that I personally think that José Fonte is a good centre-back. He has been ever present at Southampton since their League One days, has given some pretty good performances in the last couple of seasons and was a starter in Portugal’s historical campaign at the Euros this summer. He’s good, but we are not really sure if he is that good.
Truth be told, while Fonte could be easy to sign — Southampton are no strangers to selling their top assets — and would obviously be interested in coming, he would not be an clear improvement on what United has at the moment. A Liverpool-esque signing.
Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia)
DO IT, ED! DO IT NOW!
(But it looks like he is Arsenal-bound. Doesn’t matter, we didn’t want him anyway).
Raphaël Varane (Real Madrid)
Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Would be a great signing, but it’s pretty clear right now that Madrid don’t want to sell Varane and, taking the Sergio Ramos saga into consideration, United should not persist with this one.
Perhaps one for the coming windows, but not this one, if we are truly honest.
Joao Miranda (Inter)
Already linked with United in the past (who hasn’t been?), the Brazilian would add much needed experience and leadership to the back four. Would not be very expensive, either, and could be interested in coming.
The downside would probably be not getting a prime Miranda, but rather one whose best years are behind him, and perhaps we would not see the one who shook the world with Atlético at Old Trafford.
Martín Caceres (free agent)
The former Juventus man is a free agent and has wildcard written all over him. He is injury prone as hell but if he can stay healthy at least for one whole season, considering the levels of intensity and polyvalence — he can play as a centre-back and as a full-back — he can provide, he could be a great asset for United this season without a doubt. But that is one big "if".
Ashley Williams (Swansea)
Obviously very proven in the Premier League. He is the heart of Swansea’s defence and a natural leader, plus he is in his prime years. Probably a similar case to Fonte, though.
Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham)
Daniel Levy. That sums it up.
The Belgian is a great defender with leadership qualities like Mourinho wants and with high levels of passion that some may brand as "aggressive" or "over the line" or "violent". But, considering Levy’s record with transfers, it would surely take the entire transfer window and a costly price to get him to the red side of Manchester.
Yaroslav Rakitskiy (Shakhtar Donetsk)
The most unknown of the list, for sure. The Ukraine international has been a steady figure at Shakhtar for many years now, has played in the Champions League regularly and has that kind of intensity that you want in a more physical defender. Would be easier to get than most targets and, at 27, he is in his peak years.
Yes, he could be a total gamble, but one that can produce pretty good results. Remember when United signed a pretty unknown Serbian from Spartak Moscow in 2006? That lad did well, didn’t he?
Jaap Stam (Reading)
We know there are a couple of problems with this one but, come on, how awesome would that be? #BringBackJaap.
We are probably missing a lot of candidates here, so we’ll leave the rest to you: tell us your options to be Manchester United’s new centre-back. The winner will get a chance to scream at Ed Woodward in person while Facebook streaming it for all to see.