Like nostalgia and hackneyed intro lines, Manchester United’s defence ain’t what it used to be.
It’s not like the 2013/14 season was a high water-mark in the careers of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, but the departure of that pair – plus Patrice Evra – left United’s backline in desperate need of experience and nous.
Admittedly, Louis van Gaal’s cause has not been aided by a series of injuries to centre-backs – Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Marcos Rojo have all spent time on the sidelines so far this term – but there remains a feeling that the issue will linger even when everyone is fit.
With that in mind, it would be surprising if United didn’t dip back into the market in January. Here are five players they could turn to:
While the Borussia Dortmund defender was busy doing a very convincing impression of the game’s best centre-back in Brazil this summer, his name became a staple in the gossip columns as Manchester United continued to cast a flirty gaze in his direction.
As Hummels’ stock continued to go up, Dortmund dug their heels in though and a move failed to materialised before deadline day. Jurgen Klopp will know how valuable his defensive talisman is and any potential transfer fee would have to reflect this.
Hummels is a leader that Van Gaal could build his defence around for years to come. Yet to reach his peak years, the 25-year-old has prototypical size, strength and athleticism along with a composure ball-playing skills that have been starkly absent this season.
He may not be a glamour name, but United have to face facts: they’re unlikely to lure a player of Raphael Varane’s potential to Old Trafford with no Champions League football on the table.
Reid is a classy operator with experience of playing in the Premier League… which, given the fact that Rojo, Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair are still adapting, could be vital. He wouldn’t cost the world, either.
After leading the Atletico Madrid to the Spanish title last season, Diego Godin is finally getting the plaudits he deserves.
The fiesty Uruguayan would be a fans favourite at Old Trafford – an all action centre-back that has no qualms with putting his body on the line and by sheer force of personality alone would put an end to some of the hapless meandering at the back which United were guilty of at the King Power.
And like Dortmund, Atletico have a pair of defenders that would immensely improve the United defense, with Miranda another player that could slot straight in at the back for Van Gaal.
Whether or not either of them would swap sunny Spain for Salford is another thing though…
A more realistic short-term target may be Aston Villa skipper Ron Vlaar. The 29-year-old excelled in Van Gaal’s Netherlands side at the World Cup in the summer and his dicey contract situation at Villa Park means he’s there for the taking.
Van Gaal would know exactly what he’s getting with Concrete Ron and the Villa skipper would be able to slot into a team featuring compatriots Daley Blind and Robin van Persie with ease, should United move for him in January, when he’ll be into the final six months of his contract.
If it’s a physical presence that Van Gaal is after, he could do worse than snap up Schalke’s man mountain Joel Matip.
The 23-year-old hard-tackling Cameroonian international hit the spotlight in the summer when he netted for his country against Brazil at the World Cup, but it’s his presence at the back that would make him an intriguing prospect for Manchester United.
A combative player who is also at ease as a defensive midfielder, Matip was blooded in the Bundesliga as an 18-year-old by Schalke in 2009 and has rarely looked back since.
Matip would offer power and drive to his obvious versatility, traits that have been in short supply so far this season. Joe Mewis