Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal has serious concerns about three members of his playing squad: Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans.
This is according to the Daily Star, who understand that Van Gaal will submit a £20 million offer for Barcelona centre-back Gerard Pique because he is unconvinced that his three first-choice central defenders possess the required quality to remain first-team regulars at Old Trafford.
Jones too injury prone?
The defensive trio have all struggled with injuries at the start of this season - another point of concern for Van Gaal - but have often failed to convince when they have played, with the possible exception of Jones.
The England international enjoyed a fine start to the campaign, but was poor on his first appearance for the Red Devils - Monday night’s 2-2 draw with West Brom at the Hawthorns - since returning from injury. The 22-year-old, whose previous appearance was in the 0-0 draw against Burnley back on August 30, had been sidelined for several weeks with a hamstring injury.
Smalling and Evans failing to convince
Smalling, meanwhile, has played a total of 194 minutes of Premier League football so far this season, having featured in just three matches. His previous appearance came in last month’s shock 5-3 defeat to Leicester City - a match which saw United blow a 3-1 lead - and was an unused substitute against the Baggies on Monday.
And Evans has also made three Premier League appearances for the Red Devils this term. Van Gaal’s opinion of the Northern Ireland international may have taken a nosedive after his woeful performance in August’s shock 4-0 defeat to League One side MK Dons in the Capital One Cup second round.
Sir Alex Ferguson tipped trio for big things
All three players were tipped for big things by former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, who stated that Evans and Smalling would be the Red Devils’ central defensive pairing of the future back in February 2011.
And in April 2013, Ferguson raised more than a few eyebrows by claiming that Jones had the ability to become the greatest player in Manchester United’s history.
Of the three defenders, Jones is the one progressing at an acceptable rate. Smalling, despite being an impressive athlete, has problems with the technical side of his game, while Evans’ performances this season have done little to convince Van Gaal that he’s a reliable option.