It's no secret that Manchester United are in desperate need of either a world-class centre-back, or one who can grow to be world-class in years to come.

It's also no secret that almost all of the clubs considered to be genuine challengers for the Champions League trophy are vying for the signature of young Porto starlet Eliaqium Mangala.

It doesn't take a genius to see where this is going.

Mangala has all but confirmed that he wants to leave Porto at the end of the current season and, since he has publicly rejected the idea of moving to French giants Monaco, it's a pretty safe bet to say that the major players battling for him all reside in the Premier League; Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.

At 22-years-old and already having amassed an impressive 153 appearances in the Belgian and Portuguese leagues, there's a reason why Mangala's release clause currently stands at a mooted £37million, and his potential basically ensures that the ball is in his court when it comes to whom to join.

Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal all have the funds to tempt the youngster with a lucrative pay-packet, but for me it's Manchester United that should stand out as the perfect choice in terms of destination.

David Moyes' side are a squad in transition and, with the ageing of stalwarts Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, there is massive scope for Mangala to become a regular with the Premier League champions for many years to come.

Not only that but United also have a stellar track record when it comes to taking youngsters and nurturing them in such a way that makes the absolute most of their potential.

In the current haze of uncertainty surrounding Old Trafford, Mangala should realise that he would be virtually assured to walk into Moyes' starting XI, and if he didn't he would soon find himself there. Long gone are the days when Ferdinand and Vidic were impregnable fortress personified and now you sense that a change will be on the horizon sooner rather than later.

It might take more than a year for Mangala to enjoy success with United in terms of winning trophies, but when you look at the bigger picture for the club it's currently one painted by ambition and oversight, not instant injections of cash and large-scale overhaul.

There are other options of course.

The thrice-capped Frenchman could opt for Chelsea, where he'll no doubt have to compete against the likes of Gary Cahill, long-time favourite John Terry and David Luiz, as well as the next defender Jose Mourinho decides to bring in at a whim.

It's not impossible to see Mangala developing his skills as Stamford Bridge, but players with more credentials than him have arrived and either struggled for game-time or not fitted in with the style of play.

There's also Manchester City, but Manuel Pellegrini's side are particularly unsuitable in this instance. The mega-rich Citizens have become a graveyard for starlets looking to make a name for themselves in the game.

The likes of Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair, Adam Johnson and Micah Richards were all once tipped to have brilliant futures, but it's too hard for them to get consistent game-time, and the words loyalty and player development carry little emphasis at the Etihad.

Last but not least we turn to Arsenal, who in all fairness could oversee the growth of the France international better than most whilst Arsene Wenger remains at the helm. However they rely on attacking emphasis and aren't so well matched to strong, robust centre-backs who impose their size and bully strikers.

There is of course the query that joining United in the current climate is a risk, but it could be one that ultimately pays dividends both for the man and the club.

If he opts to take the gamble then Mangala could well become the future linch-pin in the new-look side David Moyes is trying to create, whilst at Chelsea and Manchester City he would serve only to toil and struggle for a place that might ultimately elude him and stunt his development.

Topics:
Football
Premier League
Manchester United
Arsenal
Chelsea