If it wasn’t for David De Gea’s constant heroics then Manchester United would arguably be facing another year of Champions League exile. Unfortunately for Manchester United fans the time for relying on their beloved Spanish stopper seems to be coming to an end as a return to the Spanish capital seems a formality. Louis Van Gaal’s side were extremely vulnerable at times defensively and on numerous occasions lacked a colossal leader figure. The loss of influential figures Rio Ferdiand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra wounded United and the lack of experience at the back gave opposing teams confidence that they could get at a makeshift United backline. Jonny Evans days at Manchester United may be numbered and the Northern Irish man could be part of a mass exodus at Old Trafford this summer. A significant dip in form, numerous injury setbacks and the infamous spitting incident with Newcastle’s Papisse Cisse have all played a part in Evans falling down the pecking order. United’s defensive displays indicated just how much they missed their Serbian warrior, Vidic martialled United’s defence to perfection, leading by example and barking orders to his fellow troops. Chris Smalling was United’s best centre half, after a stuttering start to his Manchester United career, the former Fulham man has slowly excelled and improved under Van Gaal’s guardianship and was rewarded with a new long term contract. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling strung together an impressive run of games as a partnership when United produced their best run of form last season. Both players will feel they warrant an opportunity to stake a long term claim to being the heart of United’s defensive unit. However Smalling and Jones’s injury records have constantly hindered their progress. Numerous centre backs across Europe have been linked with a big money switch to Old Trafford this summer, here are some names that could potentially be United’s next defensive enforcer:
The Argentine played a pivotal part in getting Valencia back in the Champions League places. United’s interest in Otamendi has been well publicised but Valencia have been reportedly very stern over Otamendi’s future. The Valencia board have indicated that they will not budge on Otamendi and if United or any other potential suitors want to buy the man in demand they will have to meet his £50m Euros release clause. Otamendi is currently on Copa America duty with Argentina and is reportedly very keen on a switch to Old Trafford this summer. At the age of 27, Otamendi is in his prime and his physical presence has drawn comparisons to Nemanja Vidic. With United already having Marcos Rojo and Angel Di Maria within their ranks, Otamendi would continue to add some Argentinian flavour to Van Gaal’s new look Manchester United.
At the age of 22, Raphael Varane has a wealth of experience under his ever growing belt. With Real Madrid seemingly being relentless in their pursuit of David De Gea, Manchester United have reportedly tried to use the likes of Raphael Varane as a bargaining tool. With Sergio Ramos and Pepe being the experienced pairing at Real Madrid, Varane has struggled to break the stranglehold and nail down a regular starting berth. Varane is still young and raw but his stock has continued to elevate at a race of knots. If for any reason Madrid look to cash in on the Frenchman, a host of elite European clubs will look to secure Varane’s services. The former Lens man would be a fantastic addition for Manchester United but Madrid would be unwise to part ways with the French starlet.
Speculation surrounding Sergio Ramos’s future has spiralled out of control in recent days. Reportedly unhappy over the departure of Carlo Ancelotti, Ramos also feels that the Real Madrid hierarchy don’t value his services. Ramos has been the latest Real Madrid player linked with Manchester United and potentially being involved in the David De Gea transfer saga. At the age of 29, Ramos has won it all and would add a winning mentality into the Manchester United dressing room. On the other hand, Ramos’s ruthless and cynical style of play could be a recipe for a disaster in the Premier League. The rumours surrounding the former Sevilla man could all be a ploy in order to get a new bumper contract at Real Madrid.
Manchester United’s rumoured pursuit of Mats Hummels has continued to rumble on. After a horrid season at Borussia Dortmund which resulted in failure to qualify for the Champions League and the departure of iconic manager Jurgen Klopp. Many believe that Dortmund’s hand could be forced this summer, Louis Van Gaal is reportedly a huge admirer of the German World Cup winner. There is no doubting Hummels has fantastic footballing ability and his reading of the game is uncanny. But Hummels lacks pace and adapting to the relentless tempo of the Premier League could prove a rude awakening for Hummels.
After finally ousting Sylvain Distin, Stones has managed to conjure up a fantastic partnership with club captain Phil Jagielka. Stones has drawn comparisons with Rio Ferdinand for his composure on the ball and positivity in possession. The likes of Manchester City and Chelsea are also reportedly keen on Stones. Everton will not budge on Stones and for all clubs chasing his signature they would have to stump up an astronomical fee. John Stones may not have experience on his side but his fearless nature, confidence and talent could make him an intriguing option for a host of sides this summer.