More headers and clearances, but is Shawcross an upgrade on United's back-four?

After letting Ryan Shawcross leave for Stoke City in 2007, Manchester United are rumored to be interested in re-signing the English defender.

The 27-year-old started his career with the Red Devils before later moving to Stoke and has since blossomed into one of the most consistent performers in the Premier League

Having made 225 appearances for the Potters he possesses an abundance of English top flight experience and who is to say he would not relish a second bite of the apple with the club at which he learned his trade.

With reports suggesting he could complete a January return to Old Trafford, how does he compare to the Red Devils' current crop of defenders?

  TeamTackle/ AppAerial/ AppIntercept/ AppClear/ AppBlock/ AppErrorAcc Pass (%)Touches/ AppAppsMins
Ryan Shawcross Stoke 1.43 4.00 2.14 9.29 1.57 0 76.49 61.86 7 630
Chris Smalling Man Utd 1.33 3.00 2.33 6.33 0.67 0 91.91 59.67 3 194
Jonny Evans Man Utd 1.33 2.00 1.00 4.67 1.33 1 87.10 83.33 3 210
Phil Jones Man Utd 3.33 2.00 5.67 6.00 0.33 0 91.46 76.67 3 270
Tyler Blackett Man Utd 0.67 1.33 2.50 4.83 0.17 1 88.02 70.67 6 462
Patrick McNair Man Utd 0 0.50 2.00 8.50 0 0 87.23 60.50 2 180

United fans will have no complaints with the physical side of the Stoke defender's game - after all, he comes up trumps in most categories. The 27-year-old has won significantly more headers than Van Gaal's current options, while averaging a greater number of clearances and blocks. Based on successful tackles made per appearance, he is only bettered by Phil Jones.

His ability on the ball is one of few concerns, although this could prove a major stumbling block in Shawcross's speculative return to Old Trafford. He has averaged a mere 76% pass success rate this term, while accumulating far fewer touches than the likes of Evans and Jones. Only Chris Smalling has proven inferior in this department.

Van Gaal's prefered style of play dictates composure on the ball; a trait Shawcross is failing to display at the Britannia. 

Nonetheless, the Stoke skipper has forged a reputation as one of the most reliable centre-backs in the division. United need a senior defender capable of marshalling an inexperienced back-four and Shawcross could provide the answer to Louis van Gaal's problems.

The Dutchman is desperate to increase his defensive options and with deals for Mats Hummels and Ron Vlaar looking increasingly expensive, and unlikely, for the January window, perhaps a move for Shawcross would make perfect sense. He is seen as a reliable option and Van Gaal is confident he could sign the player for a fair price.

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