Manchester United prepared to sell five defenders as part of overhaul – Samuel Luckhurst

If there is an area of ​​the Manchester United squad where they have invested particularly abysmally it is at centre-back.

United spent a world-record fee on Harry Maguire, world-class only for his country; Raphael Varane arrived 10 years later than intended; Victor Lindelof received a salary increase after United’s worst defensive season in 40 years; Eric Bailly’s contract was extended 14 months ago and he has played 13 times since, and Phil Jones has completed 90 minutes once in the last two years.

Marcos Rojo, a defender discarded at the umpteenth attempt, was put up for sale in four out of his five summers at United and in the only one he wasn’t he was injured.

Also read: United aiming to sell defenders before buying centre-back

Red reserved his biggest impact in Manchester for Tiffany’s in Selfridges. Red bought three pairs of earrings at £4,000 apiece. Once he got home and thoroughly examined the receipt, he realized he had omitted an ‘0’. They cost £40,000 each. Red had dropped £120,000 rather than a modest £12,000.

It was not just tackles Red miscalculated. The very mention of his name once prompted Ryan Giggs to shake his head regrettably.

There was much head-shaking at United’s defending last season, worse than three seasons earlier. They shipped 57 goals in 38 Premier League games and in half of their dozen defeats the opponents put at least four past them.

United’s squad rebuild is so extensive the starting defense may be left largely intact. Five squad players are free to leave but Ed Woodward’s legacy of doing out undeserved contracts to pad a flattering asset sheet makes early sales or loans unlikely.

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Jones is three-quarters of the way through a contract and he has started 16 games since he shook hands with caretaker manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in February 2019. That is a hard sell, never mind Jones’s injury record.

Bailly, 28, appeared more often for Cote d’Ivoire than United last season and has averaged fewer than 20 club appearances in his six seasons with them. United should have sold Bailly last year and the three-year renewal for a 20-something indicated they were unconvinced by their own investment.

“That’s it. Big smile. Everybody’s happy.”

Jones and Bailly are not oblivious to their standings and intend to leave. Axel Tuanzebe’s situation is not as clear-cut as United would be reluctant to leave themselves short when certain squads accommodate five center halves. Teden Mengi needs a more fulfilling loan after his stint at Birmingham was curtailed by injury.

Lindelof, 28 next month, is susceptible to speed and strength, hardly ideal for a center half in the Premier League. Should United recruit another centre-back it would relegate the Swede to fourth choice and United should have Lindelof, out of contract in 2024, in mind as a potential outgoing for next summer.

Alex Telles caught himself wondering “was this a good season” on Instagram last month. Watching Telles at times, he can appear to be a worse Brazilian United full-back than Celio Silva but United are saddled with him.

Telles is reprieved by United’s determination to drive Aaron Wan-Bissaka out amid his refusal to drive forward into the final third. Brandon Williams has not been assured of regular playing time and United are prepared to cash in.

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United’s starting back five could be familiar against Brighton on August 7. David de Gea improved and impressed enough last season to be voted the players’ player of the year and United are optimistic Luke Shaw can recover from his European Championship hangover.

Varane and Maguire have a favorable record and United have not lost when the pair have started and finished a game together. Maguire was a walking disaster last season and has to be stripped of the captaincy but is hardly a busted flush. Pep Guardiola coveted him three years ago, Jose Mourinho the summer before that and Sir Alex Ferguson endorsed his signing.

Diogo Dalot is a personable professional who loves playing for United and is hopeful of improving under Erik ten Hag. Dalot and Shaw’s contracts expire next year but United will trigger the one-year options in both deals, with the club currently focused on external signings than renewals, pooled from the same budget.

They have invested prematurely in defense often enough.


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    George Holan

    George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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