Two clean sheets in two - Is this the defender Manchester United need?

Vlaar Van Gaal's Man

Aston Villa's Ron Vlaar has continued his impressive World Cup form in the Premier League.

Vlaar Van Gaal's Man

The time is now for Manchester United if they want to build a team that can compete for a place in the top four.

Waiting until January is not an option, while waiting until the following summer - seemingly the tactic of last season - just won't do.

One area United must strengthen if they are to move forward is at the back - and there is a candidate boss Louis van Gaal will know well.

United have already signed Marcos Rojo but, with recent criticism aimed at their current centre-backs, those at Old Trafford may feel another defender is a must.

Step forward Ron Vlaar, then?

The Aston Villa centre-back was one of the most impressive defenders at the World Cup, where he worked under then Netherlands boss Van Gaal and, as Opta stats show, has kept two clean sheets out of two in the Premier League.

During those two games, he was won one tackle and two interceptions - but where he really shines is with his clearances. Indeed, the experienced 29-year-old has made 16 effective clearances over two games - against Stoke City and Newcastle United - and is often the last line of defence for his Villa back line. He is 'Mr Clearance,' if you will.

Two games may be considered a small sample size, however, so let's take a look at the whole of last season...

  TeamPosTackles WonEffective ClearancesInterceptions WonAerial Duels WonAppsMins
Ron Vlaar Aston Villa DF 55 212 64 47 32 2,805
Patrice Evra Man Utd DF 54 182 50 69 33 2,884
Phil Jones Man Utd DF 44 149 55 54 26 2,174
Ciaran Clark Aston Villa DF 38 201 25 64 27 2,202
Rafael Man Utd DF 37 76 35 18 19 1,418

Surprise, surprise, the data shows Vlaar coming out on top - ahead of all his fellow Villa defenders and ahead of all United's defenders last term. The Dutchman won more tackles and interceptions than anyone at Villa Park or Old Trafford and, once again, topped the clearance charts.

He is perhaps less convincing in the air, winning less aerial duels than Phil Jones, Patrice Evra and Ciaran Clark - but no one is perfect.

Besides, Van Gaal can always compensate by partnering the 29-year-old with a tall aerial specialist at centre-back.

Statistically, then, Vlaar might just be the man to turn to if United want a new defender. It remains to be seen, however, whether a defensive target is at the top of their priority list. The stats suggest it should be.

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