Manchester United line up 18-year-old Zouma as long term defensive solution

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The young French centre back has been widely tipped to be a star, and Alex Ferguson might swoop now to sign Zouma as a long term replacement for Nemanja Vidic.

The importance of Nemanja Vidic to Manchester United's defence has been clear for all to see during his extended injury layoffs in recent years, and whilst his recent return has been rightly celebrated, Alex Ferguson would be wise to start thinking about how to replace the commanding Serbian in his side sooner rather than later.

United already have Phil Jones and Chris Smalling in the squad, where they are presumably learning a lot from Vidic and also Rio Ferdinand. They might now be looking to bring in an even younger defender to settle into the side and become part of the transition from the old guard to the new.

Despite only turning 18 last October, Zouma has drawn plenty of attention in his appearances for St Etienne already. The young centre back made 14 league appearances for St Etienne last season, and has already had 10 outings in Ligue 1 this year. Zouma has also played for the France U16, U17 and U19 teams, and his growing reputation means that he has an £8 million valuation already.

That valuation will likely rise steeply if he signs a new contract at St Etienne, and this might be what has prompted Manchester United to heighten their interest. If Zouma continues to impress at the French side, interest from plenty of Europe’s other giants will likely increase rapidly, and bidding wars with the likes of Real Madrid and Chelsea are something to be avoided if at all possible.

It also makes sense to bring Zouma as soon as they can so he can spend more time playing in a squad with Vidic and Ferdinand, two players you'd think that a young centre back could learn an awful lot from. In that time he could also act as cover in case United end up with a similar injury situation they had during the first half of this season.

Ezequiel Garay has also been mentioned as a target for United, and at 26, he would provide an experienced hand in the short term, but Zouma could be a long term staple of United's defence, and making a move this year might prove to be an excellent piece of business.

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