Manchester United are in need of defensive reinforcements – but which former Red Devil should they bring back to Old Trafford?
Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand look set to leave the club at the end of their contracts in the summer, and whilst Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have sporadically shown they are capable of replacing the experienced duo, manager David Moyes is evidently on the look out for a new centre back.
A number of names have been linked with moves to Old Trafford, such as Eliaquim Mangala and Ezequiel Garay, but a name Moyes should be considering is currently playing for Stoke City.
Ryan Shawcross left Manchester United in 2008 in a £2m deal, but former boss Sir Alex Ferguson admitted his regret at allowing the towering centre half to leave the club.
Speaking in 2012, Ferguson said; "It always grieves me when I have to release a young player of great potential, and Shawcross certainly fell into that category. He had the misfortune – though he perhaps doesn't see it that way considering the success he has had with Stoke – of coming through along with a number of other young defenders.
"This was the era of Gerard Pique and we kept him at Ryan's expense, only I didn't know that Gerard was growing homesick and soon after was telling us he wanted to go back to Spain. He has prospered with Barcelona as we know, and if I had known he wanted away then I would have kept Ryan Shawcross."
Shawcross is a physical defender who dominates in the air, and could fill a similar role to Vidic should be Serbian depart. The 26 year old England international has developed into one of the top defenders in England whilst with The Potters, and is ready to take the next step in his career – which includes adding to his one England cap so far. Many will question Shawcross' pace and technical ability as he'd be featuring in the Champions League on a regular basis, but Vidic didn't posses either of those qualities and became a hero at Old Trafford. It would be a big step up for Shawcross, but his consistent displays for Stoke suggest that he would be able to make a seamless transition.
Of course, relations between Marouane Fellaini and Shawcross may need to be resolved should Moyes target the Stoke defender, but with rumours already gathering pace ahead of the January transfer window, Shawcross' next step may be to return to his previous club.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald