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Manchester United reportedly bid for Lille defender Gabriel

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Reports in France link United to the 22-year-old centerback

Lille OSC v Toulouse FC - Ligue 1 Photo by Aude Alcover/Icon Sport via Getty Images

French newspaper La Voix du Nord is reporting that Manchester United have made a €30 million bid for 22-year-old Lille centerback Gabriel. Napoli and Everton are also interested in the Brazilian defender.

La Voix du Nord is a newspaper based in Lille with sources very close to the club. They are considered to be a reliable source in France, though it should be noted that last summer they reported that United had made an €80 million bid for Nicolas Pepe.

Reports in France stating that Lille have already lined up Gabriel’s replacement all but confirm the player will be leaving.

Lille’s owner, Gerard Lopez, confirmed to French media outlet L’Equipe that Gabriel would be leaving the club. “With Gabriel we are talking and we’ve given him an exit pass. He will choose his club this week,” Lopez said.

Various reports have said that United, Napoli, and Everton have all made similar offers to Lille and it’s now on the player to choose his next club.

Several outlets have reported that United are currently looking for a new full time defensive partner for Harry Maguire. But they aren’t looking for just anyone. Gabriel would be fantastic signing for United.

The club’s priority remains signing Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho. After that the club are looking for a midfielder in the Jack Grealish mold (though not necessarily Grealish himself) — someone who can provide depth to both Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba.

Given United’s current financial situation that doesn’t leave a lot of money left over for a big name centerback. That’s fine — United don’t really need one.

Despite some fans’ reservations about the Harry Maguire-Victor Lindelöf partnership — namely Lindelöf’s deficiencies in the air and their combined lack of pace — United conceded the third fewest goals in the Premier League this year (36) trailing leaders Liverpool by just three goals. They also kept more clean sheets than any team in Europe’s big five leagues, though that stat is inflated by playing in the Europa League and playing more games than Paris Saint-Germain.

And they did all that with a goalkeeper who made error after error after error.

That makes upgrading United’s back line only about fifth on the list of priorities, but in terms of centerback depth, it jumps to around third. That’s where Gabriel fits in perfectly.

United specifically want a left-footed centerback who can play with the ball at his feet. The footedness of a centerback may not have been important back in the day (or even five years ago when Louis van Gaal preferred a left-footed centerback on the left for #reasons), but it’s become very important in the modern game, specifically to how United play.

United want to play out from the back, which means their centerbacks are encouraged to step up and help out with United’s buildup play.

Luke Shaw may not be anything more than an above average left-back but his absence from the last four games showed us how important he is to the United machine. Without having someone left-footed on the left side of the pitch, United’s buildup was stale, and it limited their forwards’ ability to find space.

Simply put, United need more cogs for the machine in case one breaks.

Gabriel is purely a centerback, so he won’t be much help when Shaw goes down next but these problems created by Shaw’s absence are alleviated a bit when United play with a back three — when they have a left-footed centerback playing along the left of that three. Gabriel can be of service there.

Maguire has been an excellent left sided center half, especially on the ball, but playing on the left side requires him to open up his body to pass, making it difficult to hit quick balls over to the right flank.

This isn’t a problem United have when on the right side and trying to get Marcus Rashford in behind.

But they were never able to free up Dan James on the right flank the same way. That’s something they’re going to want to do, especially if they have Jadon Sancho playing there next season.

Gabriel takes care of that.

Gabriel ticks all the boxes for United. The 6’2” Brazilian is good with his feet, good in the air, and has Champions League experience. Despite that, he likely won’t be expected to walk right in to the starting XI.

Gabriel will push Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe for playing time as he settles in to Northern England. Having fellow Brazilian Fred, and Portuguese speaking Bruno Fernandes around the team should make that acclimation far easier then what Fred had to go through last season.

If Gabriel can push Victor Lindelöf and eventually usurp him in the first XI next year, that’s all the better. If not, he can be a solid piece for the foreseeable future.

United are very high on Axel Tuanzebe and 18-year-old Teden Mengi. Having just turned 18 in April, United are expected to continue Mengi’s development in-house next year. That means he’s not likely to see any first team football outside of a few cup games. He’ll likely need to go on loan to get senior football before being ready to step into the first team. That puts him about two years away.

If Gabriel has developed enough to keep either Mengi or Tuanzebe out of the team in two years time that’s a good thing. If they’re all equally as good as each other that’s even better.

For now, the 22-year-old would fill a need in United’s depth chart, and he has the potential to improve their defense and add to their attack all for a relatively low fee.

Manchester United should be all over this. Even though they have other priorities, they can’t let that stop them from trying to secure this deal at the same time.