Manchester United: Centre-back reinforcements and viable solutions

The FA Cup final triumph has given all Reds a much-needed lift after a season of unprecedented challenges on and off the pitch. One key takeaway that can’t be argued is the importance of two fit ball-playing centre-backs. This is imperative to Erik ten Hag’s tactics and the team’s stability.

After the recent release of “99” on Amazon Prime, the fan base would be forgiven for reminiscing on more fruitful times and periods that we maybe took for granted. Bruce/Pallister, Stam/Johnsen and Ferdinand/Vidic formed partnerships that withstood vital challenges against the very best teams both domestically and in Europe. What would we give to have a young Rio Ferdinand slot into Ten Hag’s team beside Lisandro Martinez?

Let’s take a look at some of the possible options currently existing within the club and some of those being suggested to move to Old Trafford to take up that second centre-half position.

Harry Maguire

Credit to Maguire he has navigated the most difficult period of his career including, exit opportunities, losing the captaincy, some high-profile mistakes, doubts over his ability to play in a Ten Hag system and pace concerns when teams try to play in behind our defence. Despite all of this and some injuries during the season, Maguire has acquitted himself impressively in the face of adversity, churning out some huge performances and he never sulked or publicly aired his frustrations.

However, Maguire’s case to nail down a starting position is flawed as he is much more comfortable in a back three and needs to be partnered with pace around him. Furthermore, this season, most of his more prominent performances have come against teams outside the top six, which United recruitment team and Ten Hag must understand isn’t going to be good enough to help us progress next season. Maguire has redeemed himself but only far enough to remain at the club as third choice centre half to cover injuries.

Willy Kambwala

The 19-year-old’s stock increased this season and it could be argued he should have got more game time, after a brilliant performance against Liverpool in the draw at Old Trafford. He likes tackling and has the confidence and character to develop into a top centre-half. Next season may be too early for Kambwala and he does have the odd lapse of concentration which can be forgiven as that will develop with experience. Kambwala deserves to make more appearances next season, and the cup competitions should be earmarked for him to develop his game. He could see himself challenging Maguire for third choice next season but most likely will be the backup fourth centre half.

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Jonny Evans

Thirty (30) appearances across all competitions this year, arguably our most composed centre-half when Martinez wasn’t fit. Evans was consistently a 7/10 player all season and brought much-needed leadership to the squad. At 36-years-old, an FA Cup win to top off the season, maybe now is the right time to sign off on his second coming at United. Surely a backroom or youth system role will be made available for him next season, allowing for more opportunities for Kambwala to play.

Victor Lindelof

Physically isn’t able to cope with the demands of the Premier League. Lindelof is an honest player but has never reached the levels needed to get United close to the summit of the Premier League. Entering the final year of his contract, there may be an opportunity to move him on this summer and raise funds for a starting centre back.

Jarrad Branthwaite

At 21, Branthwaite has had a fantastic season winning Everton supporters and player’s player of the year as well as earning a call up to England’s preliminary squad for the Euros. There is no denying his talent.

Branthwaite is tough in the tackle and strong in the air, but can he fit into a Ten Hag system? Everton largely played a mid-low block and a direct brand of football this season in order to survive.

A move to United may be the next logical step to develop his game and he seems to relish big games. However, as a young English player with plenty of potential, a whopping €80 million is apparently what it will take to get him to Old Trafford. With FFP and United’s transfer and recruitment policies expected to be overhauled this summer, it’s hard to see this transfer happening unless there are significant outgoings.

Marc Guehi

The 23-year-old has had a fine season and with two years left on his current contract, he may present a viable opportunity for United to bolster our defence. Similar to Branthwaite, Guehi is a rising English talent but would represent a cheaper alternative with figures of 40-50 million reported to be enough for Crystal Palace to consider selling. Guehi had knee problems this season and returned to play very well in the 4-0 drubbing of United last month. He is not only a player for the future but has built a formidable reputation for himself since his move to Palace in 2021. The only fly in the ointment is his aerial dual success rate which stands at 52%. This would need to be developed to become a mainstay in the United defence beside Martinez.

Jean-Clair Todibo

There is significant noise around Todibo potentially joining the club this summer. There is no doubting, he’s a very good player but with him missing out on the France squad for this year’s Euros, you have to wonder why Barcelona let him go to Nice for €8.5 with add-ons and if he really is the answer to United centre-back problems.

Trevoh Chalobah

Rumours around United’s interest in Chalobah has gained traction in the last week or two. The 24-year-old has a contract with Chelsea until the summer of 2028 and fell out of favour under Mauricio Pochettino this season. A market value of 15-20 million could represent shrewd business, but a lot will depend on Chelsea’s new manager and his plans for Chalobah and an inflated squad. If the rumours are true, United scouting department may see an opportunity to bring in an affordable asset that could be developed further under Ten Hag.

Let us know your thoughts Reds, who should the club be looking at signing to bolster our centre back options this summer?

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More Stories Harry Maguire Jarrad Branthwaite Jean-Clair Todibo Jonny Evans Manchester United Marc Guehi Tosin Adarabioyo Trevoh Chalobah Victor Lindelof Willy Kambwala

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