Manchester United’s long and miserable 2013-2014 Premier League season didn’t have a happy ending – the reigning champions finished seventh and lost the services of arguably their two greatest centre-backs, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
Newly appointed manager, Louis Van Gaal, has already begun the rebuilding process despite his exploits with the Oranje at the World Cup.
Just recently, the Red Devils splashed out on the Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera and the 18-year-old left-back, Luke Shaw.
However, the immense hole left by Vidic and Ferdinand has yet to be filled. The following are possible centre-backs Van Gaal should consider...
1. Thomas Vermaelen
Current Club: Arsenal
Positives: Vermaelen, who is Arsenal’s captain, would surely bring much-needed experience to what will be a young backline for United next season.
The Belgian defender’s excellence aerial ability and quickness would be welcomed also, as the club will need someone capable of commanding the backline and contribute the occasional goal from a set piece.
Negatives: If recent reports out of England are correct, then United and Arsenal are on the brink of reaching an agreement for Vermaelen’s transfer. Reports suggest Vermaelen might be let go for a fee around £11 million, yet is he really worth it?
Despite having all the qualities required of a centre-back, Vermaelen is 28 and would not be an ideal long-term choice. Also, Vermaelen’s current form is very questionable, as the captain was relegated to a spot on Arsenal’s bench this past season.
2. Raphael Varane
Current Club: Real Madrid
Positives: Raphael Varane is widely regarded as one of Europe’s most promising young players. At the age of 21, Varane is already a proven big match player.
Last season, his heading ability was on display against Barcelona, when he scored against them in two separate Clasicos. Moreover, Varane is a internationally capped player. He is currently part of France’s XI in the World Cup.
Negatives: Varane’s young age comes with potential backlash as well. At just 21, Varane may not the mature and experienced centre back United are looking to purchase.
For instance, at the end of the Champions League final, Varane was caught in a scuffle with Atletico Madrid coach, Diego Simeone. Also, it would be extremely difficult for United to pry the Frenchman away from Real Madrid, as he is one of their prized possessions.
3. Mehdi Benatia
Current Club: Roma
Positives: The Moroccan international was one of Roma’s most outstanding players this past season. Benatia helped Roma keep 21 clean sheets and guided them to a second place finish in Serie A.
He is known as a very physical and commanding centre back. The 27-year-old defender is also brilliant in attacking, as he bagged five goals this past season.
Negatives: There aren’t many defending skills that Benatia lacks. Yet, critics may point to his lack of experience at the highest level, as he has only been at Roma for a season.
In addition, Benatia may end up costing United a tremendous amount of money, because when Manchester City and Bayern Munich came knocking, Roma put a £32 million price tag on Benatia.
United may be better off concentrating on a more plausible deal, so they do not get caught up in futile negotiations.
4. Mats Hummels
Current Club: Borussia Dortmund
Positives: Hummels is probably one of the best defenders in Europe. The Dortmund man starts for Germany and is a favourite at Signal Iduna Park. The defender, who has dropped by Bayern Munich, has led Borussia Dortmund to two Bundesliga titles, one German Cup, and a Champions League final.
Hummels is a very strong and commanding in the air but has many essential mental qualities as well. Critics frequently praise his reading of the game and leadership abilities.
After coming off a tough season with Dortmund, the German international may be keen to move clubs and look for a fresh start – Old Trafford could very well be an option.
Negatives: With regards to his physical qualities, Hummels does lack pace. He is known to occasionally struggles against quick and agile forwards. Other than that, the defender does not possess any significant weaknesses.
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