Football

Manchester United must sign Branislav Ivanovic

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Branislav Ivanovic would be a superb signing for Manchester United
Branislav Ivanovic would be a superb signing for Manchester United.

News that Rafael has picked up a groin injury and been forced to fly home from Manchester United's tour of the US leaves Louis van Gaal without a single recognised right-back in his squad for the International Challenge Cup matches against Inter Milan and Real Madrid.

Antonio Valencia is capable of playing at right wing-back - and should do so against both European giants - but the defensive side of his game leaves a lot to be desired.

It's abundantly clear that Manchester United require a back-up right-back, but securing the services of a quality full-back who is content to play second-fiddle to Rafael won't be easy.

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Frustration looms for Ivanovic

However, there might be a player over at Chelsea who is both available and presumably willing to come to Old Trafford. Branislav Ivanovic is poised to lose his first-team place to Cesar Azpilicueta, who will move to right-back next season in order to accommodate left-back Filipe Luis, and faces a frustrating spell on the substitutes' bench unless he leaves Stamford Bridge.

Ivanovic, if pressed, would concede that his favoured position is at the heart of defence, rather than at right-back - the position he has been deployed by Jose Mourinho and his processors at Stamford Bridge over the past few seasons.

Van Gaal needs centre-backs, too

But Van Gaal is on the lookout for at least two more quality centre-backs - and Ivanovic would undoubtedly be an upgrade on the unconvincing Chris Smalling, whose lack of technique will end up costing him a place in the new Manchester United manager's starting line-up.

Like Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen, who is also expected to come to Old Trafford this summer, Ivanovic is a versatile defender, adept at playing as a centre-back or as a full-back.

But unlike Vermaelen, Ivanovic is extremely effective going forwards, too. In the last four seasons, since being handed more freedom to venture into the opposition half, the Serbia international has scored a remarkable 22 goals in all competitions.

Ivanovic: Goal-threat

Some of these goals have been the result of his surging runs into the box, while others have come from set-pieces. Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand all used to pop up with goals from free-kicks and corners - and Ivanovic could chip in with a few goals every campaign now the aforementioned trio have left Old Trafford.

Van Gaal's excellent relationship with Mourinho means there's a realistic chance of a deal happening if the player wants the move. If Arsenal-target Ivanovic wants to know more about life at Old Trafford, all he needs to do is pick up the phone and speak to his former teammate Juan Mata, who was granted permission to leave Stamford Bridge for the Red Devils back in January.

Watch: Ivanovic in action

Two birds with one stone

The only thing counting against Ivanovic, from a United perspective, is his age. At 30, the former Lokomotiv Moscow star is no spring chicken, and realistically only has a few years left at the very top level.

But if Van Gaal fails to land his first-choice right wing-back and centre-back targets then he can kill two birds with one stone by snapping up the soon-to-be out-of-favour Blues' favourite.

Topics:
Chelsea
Branislav Ivanovic
Premier League
Arsenal
Manchester United
Football
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