With Manchester United finding new signings hard to come by, we highlight three ideal defensive additions to the current squad.
Manchester United have endured a relatively frustrating transfer window to date, and during Saturday’s opening-day fixture versus Swansea, the club’s lack of quality became painstakingly obvious.
The Red Devils were lethargic and lacked creativity as they gave an uninspired performance in their 2-1 defeat to the Swans, despite the advantage of playing on home soil.
There is no doubt Louis Van Gaal’s squad still needs strengthening – the Dutchman has made stance publicly known following the club’s weekend loss – with the current defensive situation the major point of concern.
Amid growing frustrations surrounding transfers for so-called ‘marquee’ players, I highlight three more realistic targets that prove well suited to solve the club’s current deficiencies at the back.
Benatia is a player who often goes under the radar when discussing the world’s best defensive talents. A leader at the back for Roma, the 27-year-old emerged as an integral figure in the Italian outfit’s title challenge last term.
He is an accomplished central-defender; comfortable with the ball, a strong reader of the game and fearless when it comes to recovering possession. The 6' 2" stalwart averaged ten defensive actions in each appearance during the previous campaign, whilst winning 55% of his attempted tackles.
|Team||Pos||Apps||Mins||Intercept /App||Clear /App||Block /App||Tackle /App||Aerial Succ (%)||Pass Succ (%)|
|Nemanja Vidic||Man Utd||DF||25||2,082||1.88||10.56||0.52||0.88||69.66||85.51|
|Mehdi Benatia||AS Roma||DF||33||2,857||2.79||6.61||0.61||1.70||62.90||89.20|
The Morocco international is the natural successor for former club captain Nemanja Vidic, especially considering his aerial prowess. He won 63% of his headed duels last season, overcoming 78 players in total and even provided an attacking threat for Roma, scoring five goals.
With a youthful back-line, Van Gaal needs to make an experienced addition, and the Serie A defender is the perfect man for the job. With Phil Jones and Chris Smalling as his understudies, Benatia could form the central pillar of a rock-solid Manchester United back-three.
Of course, Marco Rojo is the obvious target at left-back. But, for me, the lack of professionalism he has shown to Sporting Lisbon, amid speculation linking him with the Old Trafford outfit, should be enough in itself to dissuade Van Gaal from making any further attempts to sign the Argentine international.
Instead, the club should look to alternative targets, with Wolfsburg’s Ricardo Rodriguez striking me as an ideal option.
Whilst a considerably cheaper option, the 21-year-old was equally impressive as Rojo at the summer World Cup, and had the Swiss national side progressed further in the tournament, he would have been forced further into the spotlight. Already there are a number of top European sides vying for his signature.
Rodriguez would act as the perfect cover for the injured Luke Shaw. He, just like the English teenager, is renowned for his attacking ability as well as his competence in defence; the ideal player for the 3-5-2 system Van Gaal is currently putting into practice.
|Match||Opponent||Clear /App||Tackle /App||Aerial Succ (%)||Pass Succ (%)||Chances Created||Assists||Mins|
In his side’s opening World Cup fixture versus Ecuador, he created both goals as he side overcame a one-goal deficit, to emerge as the unlikely victors. He won five (of six) tackles and five (of seven) tackles, whilst completing 91% of his passes, to round off a hugely impressive performance.
Having made 35 Bundesliga appearance last term, Rodriguez fashioned an impressive 78 key passes, assisting nine of his side's goals. He also won more duels than any other player in Europe's top five leagues, completing 90 tackles and 85 take ons.
Juan Cuadrado is, simply put, the ideal player for the Dutch manager’s preferred style of football. He is fast, skilful, adept at short, sharp passing and capable of both scoring and creating goals.
The Colombian international proved a huge hit in Brazil, and consequently he has attracted the attention of some of the world’s best sides, including the Man United and Barcelona.
Cuadrado plays mainly as a winger. However, his combination of dribbling ability, pace and understanding of the game allows him to be used in multiple positions. In this instance, he is an adept right-wing back – a position he played at times for his current side, Fiorentina, last season.
Whilst capable in defence, he would also prove a useful attacking asset down the right-flank, adding much-needed creative guile to the Red Devil’s current starting-eleven. The club’s current crop of wingers (Adnan Januzaj excluded) fashioned just four goals between throughout the 2013/14 season.
|Dribbles Won||Dribble Succ (%)||Fouls Won||Pass Succ (%)|
He netted 11 goals last term, whilst creating a further 60 scoring opportunities. He also completed a total 118 dribbles, suffering more fouls than any other player (114) in Europe’s elite leagues.