Despite a summer of hefty expenditure, Manchester United will still be hoping for winter reinforcements as the January transfer window gets into full swing.
The club spent just over £150million as they brought in Angel Di Maria, Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind and Radamel Falcao, yet the supporters' desire for fresh faces still remains.
Strengthening the defence remains Louis van Gaal's biggest concern, and the Dutchman will be on the look-out to complete a deal for a commanding centre-back over the coming transfer window.
The Daily Express has suggested that a January approach for Schalke's Benedikt Howedes is possible, and it actually would make a great deal of sense.
Borussia Dormund's Mats Hummels has been the club's long-term target, and yet a deal remains unlikely, especially in the winter window. Contracted until the summer of 2017, Dortmund are well aware they have the upper-hand in any negotiations for their coveted star, and considering the club's poor league form, they are unlikely to sell one of their most important players mid-season.
But, perhaps more importantly, the Schalke enforcer has always dreamed of plying his trade in the Premier League, and a move to Old Trafford would present him with the perfect opportunity to do just that.
The only real stumbling block here lies in Schalke's Champions League status. Howedes may be reluctant to leave a club who will continue to compete in Europe throughout the second half of the season. Nevertheless, considering the club have drawn Real Madrid in the first knock-out round, it's expected that he would take a more long-term outlook to any potential move.
Of course, Hummels' world-class reputation makes him the more attractive signing for the Old Trafford faithful, but in terms of ability, it's fair to say there's little to tell between the duo. Let us not forget, Howedes also played an integral role in Germany's World Cup winning campaign last summer - he was one of just three players who played every minute of all seven games for the eventual champions.
|Team||Pass Acc (%)||Tackle/ App||Aerial Won/ App||Intercept/ App||Clear/ App||Block/ App||Fouls/ App||Errors||Apps|
|Mats Hummels||B. Dortmund||80||1.70||4.50||2.60||3.70||0.40||0.70||1||10|
As the statistics from the current league season suggest, Howedes actually betters Hummels in a number of key defensive areas. Not only has he recorded a greater number of interceptions and blocks per appearance, he has also made fewer errors at the back. This, alongside his superior distribution, makes the Schalke man just as capable in a defensive capacity.
Hummels looks quite content at the Westfalenstadion stadium, irrespective of the club's poor league form, and to be quite frank, a deal in the near future looks very unlikely. Even if only as a stop-gap option, Howedes would provide a cheaper, more easily attainable alternative for the Red Devils. He is a player whose fantastic ability is supplemented by his experience at the highest level of world football.
If van Gaal plans to focus his attention on a Bundesliga central defender in January, it should be Howedes. He would go a long way to improving the club's current defence.