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Manchester United struggling to reinvent the Ferdinand and Vidic partnership, next stop Umtiti?

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Given Victor Lindelof’s struggles at United, Mourinho has been linked with a move for Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti, so is the Frenchman what the Red Devils need?

United have conceded just five goals this season, while boasting an impressive eight clean-sheets from eleven EPL games. So why is Jose reportedly considering another CB signing with the plethora of options in his squad. The team’s current issues appear to be in creating and taking opportunities, making an offensive-minded playmaker a logical priority. Perhaps, it is an acknowledgement from the manager that his brittle defense is holding the team back.

Defensive dilemma?

Going by stats, United are defensively sound, yet the defending has never looked assured since the days of Ferdinand and Vidic. Then, A LOT of credit must go to de Gea. But most importantly, the team’s defensive record has arguably contributed to it’s attacking shortcomings. Jose’s tactics (not too dissimilar from van Gaal’s) – are set to protect the defense, and by extension blunting some of the team’s attacking potential – further complicated by United’s inconsistent forwards.

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Bailly is a CB with frightening potential but limited experience

In fairness, Bailly, Jones, Rojo and Smalling have all individually proven to be decent CBs. However, none has the qualities or temperament needed to marshal a back-four. Potentially, each is capable of being part of a formidable pairing, problem is United lack that commanding CB who makes the other play better. Ferdinand is considered one of United’s best, but arguably gained legendary status alongside Vidic.

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Lindelof was tipped to form a formidable partnership with Bailly

United possibly have a potential Ferdinand in Bailly, Smalling and Lindelof (lesser degree given unknown quantity status) but need a Vidic-esque sidekick (and decent LB) to provide the Red Devils a back four capable of challenging. Jones and Rojo excluded based on their erratic but often effective style of defending.

Squad options

Smalling was United’s best CB under LVG, and at the time arguably one of the top five CBs in the EPL. But the defender’s alarming decline took a further blow recently, after he was dropped by Southgate, who cited the player’s inability to play out from the back – but contradicts selection. Smalling is currently United’s third choice and least likely to be in the Jose’s long term plans.

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What you on about Gareth?

Jones is enjoying a renaissance at the moment, despite lingering concerns over injuries. He has improved under Jose, but has never appeared the most composed defender. His desperate defending tends to permeate panic through the rest of the defense. Currently first-choice alongside Bailly, whose similarity raises questions over the pair’s compatibility. No coincidence that of the five goals conceded, three have come from headers – with either CB being slightly over 6′.

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Despite possessing undoubted potential Jones has had an injury plagued career 

Bailly is arguably the most consistent (and talented) CB at the club. At 23, inexperience is his major failing, which lends to a tendency to be rash, then the infrequent loss of concentration – compensated for by pace. The Ivorian has all the attributes to develop into a top CB but likely needs an experienced head alongside to cull some of his exuberance.

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It wasn’t me: Rojo has been lucky with refereeing decisions

Rojo was decent last term, after previously threatening to flop. The Argentine was lucky to escape punishment for several rash challenges last campaign – underlying his erratic nature. Currently working his way to fitness, it remains to be seen what state he returns in. Rojo can be solid, but is characteristically South-American in his defending – which itself is a worry (Think Gabby Heinze).

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United have two exciting young defensive talents in Tuanzebe and Fosu-Mensah

Despite Blind impressing as a CB, he simply isn’t one and doesn’t possess the attributes to be – NEXT!!!. Rather, Tuanzebe or Fosu should be considered. Tuanzebe hasn’t seen much action, but has looked assured and composed on every occasion. Fosu-Mensah is another decent talent, but looks more likely to end up as a versatile fullback. Neither youngster stands out as the solution United seek.

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Blind’s versatility has seen him play in central-defense 

Rumored targets

Jose is reportedly targeting Umtiti – who is similar to United’s options in terms of stature and relative inexperience. Also surprising given the fact that Barcelona don’t have a plethora of CBs, hence, prising the 24 year old away from Spain will take some doing. Not one that will excite the fans regardless of the player’s talent.

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A trio of reported United targets

Varane has been long linked to United especially amidst Madrid’s push for de Gea. While he would fit the bill in many aspects, the 24 year old’s injury record in a less physical La Liga suggests a shared trait with United’s injury prone lot. The defender is well known to Jose from their time together at the Bernabeu. Regardless, another unlikely transfer given Real’s lack of CB options.

This way Woody

Napoli pair Kalidou Koulibaly and Nikola Maksimovic are as imposing as CBs come, both standing at about 6’4. Koulibaly particularly has continually impressed in Italy’s top flight since joining Napoli. His form over the past seasons has prompted links to Everton, Liverpool, Barcelona and other top European sides. Chelsea are known to retain an interest. An extremely versatile defender capable of playing across the backline – either in a three or four – he could potentially complement Bailly – and would fit into Jose’s tactics.

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Koulibaly has been earning rave reviews in Serie A

Maksimovic was brought in to replace Koulibaly, but has so far found it tough displacing the Senegalese. The Serbian defender has drawn comparisons with Vidic; given similarities in physicality and ball playing abilities. Equally adept in midfield, the imposing yet agile player has the technical ability to carry the ball out of defense – becoming an extra midfielder.

Virgil van Dijk’s Liverpool situation is well documented following last summer’s soap opera, so a bit tricky this one. The Dutch defender comes with EPL experience, is very comfortable on the ball, commanding in the air and is an unarguable upgrade on United’s current crop. May prove costly, but with United having players to trade, a player plus cash deal could be arranged.

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A potential United signing to get one over Liverpool

Toby Alderweireld is in the form of his life right now. The defender is reportedly discontent at Tottenham and on the radar of Madrid. Daniel Levy is notoriously difficult to negotiate with, as Woodward surely knows. However, Alderweireld is one Spurs player worth the effort and outlay. His displays against Madrid and United this season have showcased the defender’s talents.

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Toby Alderweireld has been one of the EPL’s most consistent CBs

Other options which could provide United certainly more than Lindelof current offers are the experienced former Atletico pairing Godin and Miranda – though concerns will surround their ability to adapt to the pace of the EPL at this stage of their careers. Both would also represent short-term solutions, but a longer term option could be Jonathan Tah, a youngster with immense potential and stature. The composed German is comfortable on the ball and assured in his defending. He presents a gamble, but one that is likelier to pay off than Lindelof at the moment (Great profile on Tah).

Wild card

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Only LVG (or JM) would hastily discard a player currently sought after by Pep and Wenger

Johnny Evans’ reputation has been somewhat repaired following his United exit – and could be a surprise signing. He has the benefit of knowing the club in and out, having played alongside some of the current CBs. United may have moved on from Evan’s era, but the defender’s UCL (32 European appearances) and (3) title winning experiences under SAF could still prove invaluable.

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