There have been numerous links and denials about Manchester United's interest in signing Nicolas Otamendi from Valencia throughout the transfer window. There has been greater pressure from the Spanish media as Sergio Ramos has now done a u-turn on his proposed move to United by signing a new deal with Real Madrid worth £10 million per year and becoming the new club captain.
Louis Van Gaal had not hidden the fact that if United were to sign a new central defender then Ramos would be his first choice. United have claimed that they have no interest in Otamendi and Van Gaal has pursued his experiment of playing Daley Blind in this position. Although Blind is skilful and good at reading the game he lacks strength and pace and could struggle against more lethal finishers.
So what is Van Gaal trying to do?
He appears to be obsessed with attempting to sign either midfielders or wingers at present rather than attending to the defence. His interest in Pedro at Barcelona, Muller at Bayern Munich, Biglia at Lazio and Gaitan at Benfica all indicate that his focus is elsewhere. However, as Roy Keane recently earlier this month: "I don't think the spine of United is strong enough. I still think they need a centre-half maybe."
United have been linked with Everton's promising centre back John Stones, but it seems that either he will stay at his current club or sign for Chelsea.
Van Gaal seems to fear that Otamendi is also, like Ramos, trying to improve his term and conditions with conditions with Valencia by using the threat of moving to united as a bargaining tool. Yet reports coming out of Spain claim that he is declining to train with his team-mates as there is so much speculation about his situation.
Otamendi is a proven world class defender for his club and Argentina. He has won the Primeira Liga three times, the Super Cup three times, the Emirates Cup and the Uefa Europa League as well as being a runner-up in the last World Cup Final. He scored six goals in La Liga last season and at set pieces he is a constant threat in the air despite him being six foot tall . In tackling, blocking and interceptions he is very competitive.
He would provide a solid partnership at United with his compatriot Rojo. Jones is not reliable or consistent enough as shown in his recent display against PSG and Smalling's distribution from the back is still poor.
Keane's comments are relevant as the last time that United looked solid in defence was when they had a centre back such as Jaap Stam for three seasons when they won three league titles, the FA Cup, The Intercontinental Cup and the Uefa Champions League. Alex Ferguson admitted that it had been a mistake to sell Stam to Lazio.
More recently Nemanja Vidic has provided the cover at the back with United winning five Premier titles, the Football League Cup three times, the FA Community Shield five times, the FIFA Club World Cup and the Uefa Champions League in the nine seasons he was with them before joining Inter Milan. The evidence shows that the old adage of building your team form the back still stands and United need to sign a player of Otamendi's class to allow the others to flourish.