Manchester United were in the market for defensive reinforcements over the summer, and it is starting to become clear why they were so eager to bolster their back line.
Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo may have joined the ranks at Old Trafford, but injuries have hit Louis Van Gaal’s men hard and led to much tactical tinkering and the promotion – perhaps a little ahead of schedule – of academy graduates such Patrick McNair and Tyler Blackett.
One of those players United were hoping to get their hands on was a man Louis van Gaal knows well from his time spent in charge of the Dutch national side.
Ron Vlaar was a colossus at the heart of Holland’s back four during the World Cup finals in Brazil, drawing plaudits from across the globe for his no-nonsense displays, including a semi-final outing against Argentina during which he kept Lionel Messi and co. quiet before missing a crucial penalty in a heartbreaking shoot-out.
United had hoped that the appointment of van Gaal would work in their favour as they endeavoured to beat the transfer deadline, but the window closed with Vlaar still in the Midlands and a leading figure in the plans of a Premier League rival.
Interest was expected to be rekindled in January, with the same issues still needing to be addressed at the Theatre of Dreams.
United may, however, be left empty-handed once again, with Vlaar revealing while away on international duty that he has held tentative talks with Paul Lambert about the prospect of extending his stay at Villa past the end of the current campaign.
He said on the ongoing transfer talk: “I have nothing to say because there is nothing going on.
“I have spoken to the gaffer a few times (about a new deal) but that is it so far.”
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Vlaar has spent the past two seasons in England with Villa and his consistency was rewarded with the captain’s armband in April 2013.
He has never been a centre-half blessed with blistering pace or one that takes chances in possession. He is very aware of what he is good at, and that is keeping opposing strikers at arm’s length.
The 29-year-old is a leader, an enforcer and a defender shaped more from the mould of former United stalwart Nemanja Vidic than Rio Ferdinand.
That, though, is precisely what Van Gaal is looking for. Whether he gets what he wants may be a different matter.
There has been talk of Vidic making an emotional return after struggling to have the desired impact at Inter Milan but, if the Serbian opts to remain in Italy, United could do a lot worse than step up their interest in Vlaar before the window of opportunity swings open again in the New Year.