Manchester United need to improve their centre-backs
The 2021/22 summer window represents a huge one for Manchester United.
The Red Devils have continued to make progress under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. They are on course for their highest Premier League finish in several years, with a Europa League and FA Cup still to play for.
However, it is still quite clear that the Manchester powerhouse remain some way away from being a top, top side - like Manchester City - who are on course for a third Premier League title in four years, and would consider winning just the League Cup a fairly poor season.
And though some of the onus should be on Solskjaer to help push United to the next level, a manager can only take a group of players so far.
So, if Man United do truly want to be seen as one of Europe’s elite again, they will need to spend big in certain areas of the pitch.
One obvious position in which the Reds need to strengthen is, of course, the centre-back spot.
Harry Maguire is a decent centre-half and captain, despite his lack of pace. However, finding a partner for the Englishman should be considered a priority for Solskjaer and co.
This comes with Victor Lindelof having proved on numerous occasions that he just isn’t good enough to be a regular starter for a side aiming to win the Premier League.
Outside of this duo, Man United have Eric Bailly, who, whilst a solid player on his day, has been plagued with injury issues throughout his stint at Old Trafford.
So, at 101, we have taken a look at five central defenders Manchester United should look to sign as a partner for Harry Maguire.
Our first option is France and RB Leipzig centre-back, Ibrahima Konate.
With Harry Maguire right-footed, Manchester United should probably be looking at left-footed options for their next centre-half arrival. And though Konate is not that, he would still prove a useful asset.
Konate joined RB Leipzig on a free transfer in the summer of 2017 from French outfit, FC Sochaux-Montbéliard.
And the 21-year-old has since gone on to garner 89 appearances for Die Roten Bullen, including 15 thus far this season.
Konate is fast, powerful and good with the ball at his feet, making him a potentially perfect partner for Maguire, despite not being left-footed.
The France under-21 international is also rumoured to have a release clause of just €40m this summer, which - given his age, experience and ability - could represent a real bargain in the modern market.
It is also thought, though, that a number of other Premier League clubs are keen on Konate:
Unlike Konate, our next option is naturally left-footed, so would have little to no issues slotting into the left centre-back spot in Manchester.
Pau Torres is a product of Spanish outfit Villarreal’s youth system.
After honing his craft on loan with Malaga, Torres has since returned to Villarreal, where he has cemented himself as a key figure in Unai Emery’s side.
The 24-year-old has notched 31 appearances across all competitions for El Submarino Amarillo this term, playing a crucial role in their fight for a European spot.
Torres is slightly older than Konate. But at 24 he is of course, on paper, yet to enter into his prime years.
The seven-time capped international has also demonstrated his amazing passing range and ability on the ball over the last few seasons, a trait all top centre-backs need to possess in the modern game.
One potential downfall when looking at Torres, however, is that Villarreal are said to want around €65m to part with the defender. But that is still around £20m less than United paid for Maguire.
Jules Kounde has been honing his craft with Sevilla for around a year and a half now.
The 22-year-old joined the Spanish outfit in the summer of 2019 from Ligue 1 side, Bordeaux.
Sevilla are understood to have paid around £22.5m to bring the stopper to the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan stadium.
He went on to feature 40 times last season, playing a key role in his side’s Europa League triumph.
Kounde has since racked up a further 36 appearances across all competitions to this point in the current campaign, proving himself to be one of the brightest young centre-halves in Europe.
However, whilst the Frenchman would no doubt prove a great buy for United, he would also likely come as the most expensive option on this list.
This comes with Sevilla said to have inserted a release clause of around £68m (€80) in the stopper’s contract.
Alessio Romagnoli has been on AC Milan’s books since 2015, after joining from fellow Italian outfit, AS Roma, for around £22.5m.
The now 26-year-old has since notched over 200 appearances for Milan, acting as both a key figure at the back and captain throughout 2020/21, as the Rossoneri vie for a Champions League berth.
Should Man United sign Romagnoli, they would be getting a powerful, left-footed centre-half who could prove exactly what the club's backline is lacking.
The Italian is also set to enter into the final year of his current AC Milan contract in the summer.
And though the defender and his agent are believed to have spoken to the club about renewing, recent reports suggest that Milan do not want to pay what Romagnoli and Mino Raiola are asking for.
So, depending on how things play out over the coming months, United could potentially take advantage of the situation, and land Romagnoli in a cut-price deal.
The final defender on our list is Braga’s David Carmo.
Of all the players in this piece, Carmo would likely prove the cheapest. But he is also one of the least experienced, and yet to play regularly in one of Europe’s top-five leagues.
The 21-year-old join Braga’s youth system in 2015, and has since gone on to notch 40 appearances for the club's senior side.
However, he has zero experience in a ‘top’ league, and just six Europa League outings under his belt.
Whilst Carmo would therefore represent a bigger risk than the aforementioned defenders, though, he is left-footed, and his release clause is believed to be around €40m. This is half of what United would likely need to stump up to sign someone like Jules Kounde.