Three players Manchester United should sign this summer

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Heading into the new season Manchester United have five senior defenders on the books; a left-back, three centre-backs and a right-back.

Whilst most talk has been of an understudy to Luke Shaw now that Patrice Evra has left along with an accomplished centre-back, it is cover/competition for Rafael that Louis van Gaal is also in desperate need of.

Now 24, he featured in just 19 of Manchester United's Premier League games last term and with Chris Smalling and Phil Jones needing to secure their favoured centre-back position it is of paramount importance that the club brings in someone here to add depth.

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John Stones

At just 20-years-old, the former Barnsley star featured in 21 Premier League games for Everton last year and his stats make for impressive reading.

His pass completion percentage was 90% versus Rafaels' 79%. He lost an average of 1.25 tackles per game compared to 1.97 for Rafael.

Consider the percentage of aerial duels won and it again favours the Evertonian, with 62.79% versus 47.22%.

The total duels won percentage also reflect well on Stones, who achieved 62.04% with 51.6% for Rafael and he commits less fouls per game too with an average of 0.20 versus 1.21.

Rafael wins when it comes to total tackles won and interceptions per game with 2.36 versus 1.12 for tackles and 2.23 versus 1.25 for interceptions. However, that is where the positives end for the Brazilian as Stones averages more blocks and clearances, and also far less yellow cards.

His arrival would not only add much needed depth to a threadbare backline, but might just spur Rafael on to rediscover the form of 2011-2013.

Marco Verratti

Manchester United have already added to their midfield options with the acquisition of Ander Herrera, but with Michael Carrick sidelined for the next 12 weeks and a dire lack of suitable alternatives the central midfield area is once again dominating the headlines.

Whilst Arturo Vidal continues to be linked, as does Paul Pogba, United have already seen two of the previous managers' targets in Cesc Fabregas and Toni Kroos move elsewhere.

If we consider the man most Red Devils fans want, Vidal, and compare his statistics from 2013/2014 with our very own Herrera it makes for very interesting reading.

Both players completed an average of just over 53 passes for every 90 minutes on the field within which both average just under 22 backwards passes and just over 31 forward passes.

Vidal has a marginally superior pass completion percentage with 84% versus Herrera's 81% but completes 1.55 key passes per game, compared to 1.69 for young Spaniard. They both registered an average of 0.18 assists per game yet Herrera comes out on top once again in terms of chances created, with 1.86 to 1.73 for the Chilean.

Their average pass lengths are almost identical too, at the 17m mark. Vidal does score more goals registering 0.41 per game to Ander's 0.18, though they both take a similar amount of shots per game with 2.39 for Herrera and 2.10 for Vidal and share similar shooting accuracy percentages of 38% for Herrera and 40% for Vidal, suggesting that if Herrera can become more clinical in front of goal he is already putting himself in the right positions to match Vidal's haul.

Vidal does win more tackles per game but he loses more too, suggesting a tenacity to his game that Ander lacks but interestingly, Herrera won 52.28% of his duels last season compared with 43.06 for Vidal.

The former Athletic Bilbao man also draws more fouls than his Turin rival, gives less away and is booked less often. The numbers suggest that with Herrera in the side it is another type of midfielder altogether that United need and the man the numbers say we should be looking to sign is Marco Verratti.

When comparing him to Carrick, Herrera and Vidal his stats are phenomenal; out passing the three of them with over 100 passes a game at a superior average of 91% completed. He plays 10 forward passes a game more than Carrick and more than double either Herrera or Vidal.

Verratti registered more assists than Carrick and exactly the same per game as Vidal and Herrera. He makes more interceptions and wins a higher percentage of his duels too than Vidal suggesting he is the type of all action box to box midfielder that United are craving.

His goals tally is significantly lower, and he clocks less assists but at six years the junior of the Juventus man he has plenty of time to nurture and develop into a truly world class central midfielder.

Lucas Moura

Our wing quartet endured a collectively miserable 2013/2014. Wilfried Zaha was sent out on loan having failed to impress the manager and whilst Nani was beset by injury he failed to deliver on his rare appearances.

Ashley Young continued to disappoint and although Antonio Valencia did, at times, show glimpses of his former self, he could not replicate it consistently. Consequently, we have been linked with what feels like every winger in Europe so far this summer.

There were whispers of Marco Reus and we were heavily linked with Alexis Sanchez before he joined Arsenal. We now seem to be competing with PSG for Angel di Maria whilst Fiorentina's Juan Cuadrado has also seen his name linked with Old Trafford following an excellent World Cup.

Statistically Di Maria enjoyed a far superior season to all of the aforementioned and should rightly be our first choice but if he does head to the French capital then the very first thing United should do is enquire about Lucas Moura.

The Brazilian had a superior pass completion percentage than Valencia, Di Maria or Cuadrado in 2013/2014 and even registered more key passes than Cuadrado, a figure nearly double that of Valencia.

With 0.51 assists per game compared to Valencia's 0.14 or Cuadrado's 0.17 he could offer United the incisive threat from out wide that the fans love to see. He scored more goals per game than both Di Maria and Valencia although fell someway short of Cuadrado's contribution in Serie A.

It should be noted though, that the Colombian had significantly more shots per game and a poorer shot accuracy.

What happens when it goes wrong?

Vidal, Mats Hummels, Di Maria and Daley Blind sound great. So great in fact that it is almost too good to be true. In the likelihood that transfers do not materialise or any or all of them we will have to look at other options.

The three players discussed above are hardly 'discoveries', each of them enjoyed excellent seasons last time out and were widely acclaimed for their efforts.

It is notable though that none of them are being linked with Manchester United, despite our obvious need for quality players in their positions. You may argue that pursuing a PSG player makes no sense but with FFP sanctions in place they need to balance the books and if Di Maria arrives it may just well mean that Lucas Moura decides to look elsewhere for first team football.

John Stones wouldn't be cheap, as we know a young English player with potential can command significant fees and any potential deal would likely have the Everton Chairman reference the price we paid for Shaw. But, with just five senior defenders at the club and Rafael's injury record it is important we reinforce. Considering stats alone, these three should be right at the very top of Louis van Gaal's list.

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