Man Utd: Do club care more about sponsors than cups?
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Manchester United are expected to be in the market for a new central defender ahead of the summer transfer window, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s current options at the back failing to live up to expectations this season. The Norwegian boss is rumoured to be eyeing a ball-playing centre-back to pair up with Harry Maguire in preparation for a renewed Premier League title bid next time around.
Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly have struggled to make a strong case for themselves this season, with inconsistency their biggest consistency over the course of the campaign.
The former has impressed on occasion but has also produced a number of sub-par performances, most recently during the 3-1 FA Cup quarter-final defeat at the hands of Leicester City.
Meanwhile, Bailly has rarely featured since the beginning of the season and could be shipped out this summer with his contract set to expire next year.
The Red Devils have been linked with a number of potential replacements, including RB Leipzig star Ibrahima Konate who has been thriving alongside Bayern Munich-bound Dayot Upamecano for the Bundesliga outfit this season.
However, the 21-year-old appears to be closing in on a move to Liverpool, with a report from The Athletic claiming that negotiations are at an advanced stage.
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This would force United into pursuing other targets, with Sevilla defender Jules Kounde likely to be near the top of Solskjaer’s wish list.
The 22-year-old is very much a rising star and would provide a long-term solution at the back with United lacking young, high-quality central defenders.
He is an accomplished distributor and is suitably dangerous in the air, two crucial attributes needed to thrive at the highest level of the game.
It has been suggested that Sevilla could be tempted to sell for around £50million, which is significantly cheaper than the £78m fee paid to bring Maguire to the club two years ago.
The proposed figure would also suit United’s budget, with Solskjaer said to have around £80m to work with before player sales.
Another similarly-priced option could come in the form of Brighton and Hove Albion’s Ben White, who has taken to life in the Premier League like a duck to water this season.
The former Leeds United loanee is an imposing figure at the back for the Seagulls, able to defend like an old-school centre-half while his calm on-pitch demeanour allows his passing game to flourish under the possession-based style of Graham Potter.
Maguire is said to have asked United’s hierarchy to find him an English partner for next season, and White could be the ideal homegrown solution with his defensive acumen and technical know-how promising to complement the Red Devils captain perfectly.
AC Milan skipper Alessio Romagnoli is another name to have been linked with United in recent months.
He ticks an important box for Solskjaer in being a left-footer, while his leadership qualities would also ease some of the pressure on Maguire and allow the England star to allocate a greater focus to improving his own game.
Romagnoli is experiencing a slight dip in form and has lost his place in the Milan side in recent weeks, which could boost United’s hopes of securing his services with the defender likely to return to the top of his game before too long.
The Red Devils could also go down the young and unproven route, in which case they could do far worse than to pursue a move for Borussia Dortmund prospect Dan-Axel Zagadou.
The 21-year-old is a versatile defender, able to fill in at left-back when needed, and offers an imposing physical presence with his aerial ability a key strength.
He has played just nine times in the Bundesliga this season but would provide some much-needed strength in depth at the back for Solskjaer’s side while his lofty potential would stand the Red Devils in good stead for the foreseeable future.
Although a move for Konate seems increasingly unlikely with Liverpool in pole position for his signature, it would not be the end of the world for United who could call on a number of other top-class central defenders to pair up with Maguire next season.
It remains to be seen which option they will go for in the summer transfer window, with a watertight back four an essential requirement for any side harbouring genuine ambitions of fighting for and winning the Premier League title.
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