Manchester United are expected to sign a new centre-back this summer to partner Harry Maguire for the long run.
Victor Lindelof hasn’t lived up to expectations in his three seasons at Old Trafford and Eric Bailly has spent more time on the sidelines than on the pitch. Chris Smalling is out on loan at AS Roma, suggesting his future lies away from Manchester United, whilst Phil Jones has rarely been used under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The Norwegian boss got many things right last summer by signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka to solve our problem at right-back, Daniel James to strengthen our counter-attack game, and Maguire to upgrade our defence. Then in January came Bruno Fernandes, who was looking fantastic prior to the Premier League’s suspension in mid-March. In fact, the Portuguese star’s performances were so good that he has made the BBC Team of the Season in only five games during the suspension:
Here is your #PremierLeague team of the season.
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) May 7, 2020
Solskjaer also signed Odion Ighalo on loan during the winter transfer window with the Nigerian striker netting four goals in eight appearances across all competitions. So far so good for the boss in the transfer market.
When it comes to finding a new centre-back to partner Harry Maguire, two names have been strongly linked. The first of those is Barcelona’s fringe defender, Samuel Umtiti.
The 2018 World Cup winner has found himself playing the backup role to Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet in Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setien’s defences this season; starting just nine of Barcelona’s 27 La Liga games in 2019-20 and just three times in the Champions League. Earlier this week we reported that the 26-year-old could be available for €30 million (£27m) as a result of the loss in income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That fee would not scare off Manchester United.
The other centre-back that we’re being strongly linked with is Kalidou Koulibaly. The Senegalese international is in his sixth season with Napoli, and with Gino Gattuso’s side looking unlikely to qualify for next season’s Champions League, on top of the financial problems COVID-19 has caused, the Naples club may be forced to cash in. The latest reports suggest the highly-rated centre-back could be available for €50 million (£44m) this summer as a result. This is also a realistic fee for Manchester United.
News reports suggest there is more interest in Koulibaly than Umtiti from other clubs around Europe, but the general consensus is that we would only need to compete with Arsenal for the latter, with Internazionale’s best offer being a loan deal. This would suggest we could have first choice on Samuel Umtiti whilst also being in the run for Koulibaly.
Should we have the choice of either, Kalidou Koulibaly has proven to be the better of the two; simply put, one of the best centre-backs in world football right now. He’s only two years older than Samuel Umtiti so would have years to come to provide us with an incredible defensive partnership alongside Harry Maguire, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw completing the back four. We’d only be David de Gea returning to his best to have a potentially rock solid defence.
Samuel Umtiti himself is a solid defender though has shown vulnerability at Barcelona at times. His suggested £27 million transfer fee represents a bargain and I’d still be happy if we signed him on the basis we were unable to get Koulibaly.