Louis van Gaal is determined to bring Borussia Dortmund captain Mats Hummels to Manchester United this summer.
ESPN have been told by a source that Van Gaal believes the 26-year-old World Cup winner is best suited to United’s approach.
Valencia’s Nicolas Otamendi is understood to be Van Gaal’s secondary defensive target, while Everton’s promising centre-back John Stones is next on the list.
Manchester United believe it will be difficult to prise Hummels away from Dortmund, even though it’s been reported that the talismanic BVB captain wants to leave Signal Iduna Park this summer.
Hummels is believed to have told Dortmund that he is ready to leave the club who finished a huge 33 points behind Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich last season, outside of the Champions League places.
Only Chris Smalling has convinced Van Gaal
United were subsequently expected to table a £20 million bid for the Germany international this week - but it’s unlikely that such a low offer would tempt Dortmund into selling one of their key players.
It’s now clear, though, that Van Gaal is keen to add some quality to his back-line.
Chris Smalling is arguably the only Manchester United centre-back that has managed to convince Van Gaal this season.
The England international, 25, signed a four-year contract extension in April after an excellent - if not somewhat surprising - second half of the season.
Phil Jones and Jonny Evans are both fighting for their Manchester United futures, while Marcos Rojo is a useful option but may lack the required quality to hold down a regular place at centre-back in the Red Devils’ defence.
Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett, meanwhile, continue to learn their trade and can expect more opportunities next term.
Hummels would be the dream signing for United
Hummels would be a tremendous signing for the Premier League giants, despite doubts over his pace.
The former Bayern Munich starlet is widely considered one of the world’s best central defenders thanks to his reading of the game combined with his leadership qualities.
Valencia’s Argentina international Otamendi is similar in many ways to Hummels, but bringing the South American to Old Trafford would not be straight-forward for Manchester United due to the price of the deal and the complexity of the player’s contract.
John Stones, meanwhile, clearly has a bright future ahead of him - the 21-year-old has already played for England four times - but Everton would demand a huge fee for the Barnsley-born defender.
Manchester United fans: would you prefer Mats Hummels, Nicolas Otamendi or John Stones at Old Trafford next season? Have your say in the comments below!