Why Manchester United should make City pay for stalling over ideal €35m centre back

Mehdi Benatia playing for Morocco

Manchester United are still in need of a dominant centre back – and should try to beat Manchester City to Mehdi Benatia.

The Red Devils can now get their rebuilding plans in full swing after new boss Louis van Gaal saw his Netherlands side dumped out of the World Cup by Argentina on Wednesday night. The club have already landed the signatures of Southampton left back Luke Shaw and Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera, but there is plenty of work still to do.

Shaw is one part of what will be a new look United back line, and whilst Arsenal centre back Thomas Vermaelen is strongly linked with an £11m switch to Old Trafford, there will still be work to do in the heart of the United defence after the departure of long-serving duo Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.

Vidic, 32, and Ferdinand, 35, formed a dominant partnership under Sir Alex Ferguson, but both have now left the club after the expiration of their contracts, with United now looking to young players to replace them. That could be Jonny Evans, Phil jones or Chris Smalling, but even with Vermaelen potentially on the way in, it still feels like United are lacking that one world class centre half that all world class defences need.

They have been strongly linked with a £30m bid to sign Porto's Eliaquim Mangala, who certainly has the potential to be that player, but for that kind of money, they could land someone who can step in right away and replace Vidic and Ferdinand perfectly – Roma's Benatia.

The 27-year-old Moroccan international joined Roma from Udinese last summer in an £11m deal, and went on to have a stunning season in the Italian capital, as Rudi Garcia's side conceded only 25 goals in 38 games, becoming the key player in one of the meanest defences in Europe.

He's exactly the type of defender than can make United's defence fearsome once again; he's strong, quick, great in the air and possesses an excellent reading of the game. There's just one problem – local rivals Manchester City are pushing to sign him as well. Roma have now told Manuel Pellegrini's side to pay €35m (£28m) by the 21st of July, or any deal is off.

Benatia has told Roma of his intention to leave the club this summer, and whilst United probably can't match the money City can offer, and they can't give him Champions League football, they could take advantage of City's dithering over the deal by swooping in to steal him from right under their noses.

The £28m fee would take United's summer spending up towards the £100m mark, but after the insipid spell under David Moyes, the Red Devils surely know that heavy spending is the only way to bring the club back to its former glories – and snatching Benatia ahead of City would be the perfect way to bring in the van Gaal era.

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