Manchester United splashed a combined £125 million for the defensive services of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka last summer. According to a report from Metro UK, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is keen on spending more to further improve a defensive corps that has faced a number of criticism this season. Per the report, Villarreal centerback Pau Torres is who the Reds have their eye on.
The Spaniard has spent the majority of his senior career at Villarreal, with the exception of being on loan at Málaga for the 2018/19 campaign. A natural left-footer, Torres would fit well next to Harry Maguire, providing backup and competition for Victor Lindelöf. This past season with Villareal, Torres registered two goals and one assist in 33 appearances, as the Spanish club finished fifth in La Liga.
Though United deserve praise for completing the Premier League season with the third fewest goals conceded, inconsistencies in the defense nonetheless remain a concern. Since Sir Alex’s departure, United have spent millions to strengthen the centre-back role, however they’ve struggled to find players capable of having long-term potential.
Lindelöf and Eric Bailly, two signings who arrived during the José Mourinho years, were presumed to be United’s long-term answer at centre-back. However, there are doubts about the ultimate quality of the former, and the latter is consistently battling an injury. Axel Tuanzebe, the promising academy graduate who was meant to make the step up this season, has likewise been plagued by injuries.
Torres is not the only centre-back United have their eye on, either. That same Metro article mentions that Solskjaer was looking at Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake. It’s highly unlikely Ake will continue his career at Old Trafford though, as ESPN and others are reporting that cross-town rivals Manchester City are closing in on a £40m deal to bring the Dutchman’s services to the Etihad.
A recent report also linked United to Lille defender Gabriel — another young, left-footed centerback who is comfortable on the ball.
There’s also a possibility Torres could remain in Spain. On Monday, Spanish media publication COPE reported that Barcelona are United’s biggest competition for Torres. Whichever club ultimately lands the rising star, they’ll have to shell out at least £45.5m to activate his release clause.
With Marcos Rojo already likely to leave this summer, should Chris Smalling’s loan spell at Roma result in a permanent contract and Phil Jones’ time at Old Trafford come to an expected end, United could suddenly look very thin at centerback. Bringing in fresh bodies at the back could be the solution United need in order to be serious contenders for the Premier League next year.