As soon as Louis van Gaal was announced as manager of Manchester United ahead of the World Cup, rumours started to swirl as to who the Dutchman would be interested in recruiting to his cause, and unsurprisingly, several of his Netherlands squad were mooted as arriving at Old Trafford.
The Dutch defensive lynchpin Ron Vlaar has been one of the names most consistently linked to joining up with his former national team boss, given that he was already in the Premier League and, given his age, likely to be a cheaper option than defenders in their early to mid twenties.
However, Aston Villa held on to their captain for the start of the season, and Paul Lambert's side have been defensively excellent for the most part, even with Vlaar missing a good portion of the games due to injury.
Below we compare Vlaar to the several United centre backs Van Gaal has used this season, with surprising results.
|Team||Pos||Effective Clearance / apps||Duel Won / apps||Aerial Won / apps||Interception Won / apps||Apps||Mins|
|Patrick McNair||Man Utd||DF||8.50||1.00||0.50||2.00||2||180|
|Ron Vlaar||Aston Villa||DF||7.00||1.67||0.67||0.67||3||270|
|Chris Smalling||Man Utd||DF||6.33||6.00||3.00||2.33||3||194|
|Phil Jones||Man Utd||DF||6.00||7.33||2.00||5.67||3||270|
|Marcos Rojo||Man Utd||DF||5.75||5.50||3.25||2.75||4||360|
|Tyler Blackett||Man Utd||DF||4.83||3.00||1.33||2.50||6||462|
|Jonny Evans||Man Utd||DF||4.67||5.33||2.00||1.00||3||210|
Given his tendency to use three at the back, Van Gaal has dabbled with many defenders in his short spell in charge at the club, but what is striking is that the statistics Vlaar provides during his few games this season put him below the majority of those defenders in the vast majority of areas. Aside from being second when it comes to making effective clearances in defence, Vlaar comes behind the United defenders across the board.
Phil Jones comes out on top with regards to winning effective ground duels as well as interceptions per appearance, while Chris Smalling and Marcus Rojo also perform well in the majority of categories. Youngsters Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett also seem to outshine Vlaar despite their inexperience at Premier League level.
|Team||Pos||Passing Accuracy %||Goals Conceded||Won Tackle / apps||Apps||Mins|
|Patrick McNair||Man Utd||DF||87.23||2||0||2||180|
|Ron Vlaar||Aston Villa||DF||80.19||1||0.33||3||270|
|Chris Smalling||Man Utd||DF||91.91||7||1.33||3||194|
|Phil Jones||Man Utd||DF||91.46||3||3.33||3||270|
|Marcos Rojo||Man Utd||DF||87.59||7||0.75||4||360|
|Tyler Blackett||Man Utd||DF||88.02||7||0.67||6||462|
|Jonny Evans||Man Utd||DF||87.10||1||1.33||3||210|
With there being less emphasis on a passing game at Villa compared to United, it's perhaps not surprising to see Vlaar so far behind the United defenders when it comes to passing accuracy, while only Jonny Evans has a similar impact with regards to seemingly inspiring his team's defence to stopping goals getting through.
So it seems that the presence of Vlaar may not be necessary given the talent already at Old Trafford, though someone as seasoned an international as the former Feyenoord man may be able to lead by example in a way few at United currently can.