The former Real Madrid defender is thought to have been on the Red Devils' radar for some time now, with the club viewing the 26-year-old as a long-term replacement for veteran Rio Ferdinand in central defense (per The Telegraph, h/t Marca).
The move, it is reported, would happen over the summer transfer window and could well see veteran Rio Ferdinand leave Old Trafford in the process.
However, this rumor, like most in the transfer window, must be approached with caution and precision. We must be assessed in line with both clubs' current situations and dealings before we jump in head-first and proclaim this deal to be as good as done.
First off, it's worth noting that Manchester United aren't as bad defensively as they have made out to be at several points throughout the current season.
From their 23 Premier League matches this year, United have conceded just 30 goals all year—an average of around 1.3 goals against per game.
Those numbers are certainly nothing to be ashamed of, particularly when you've had the defensive dilemmas that United have had this year in terms of injury and consistency. I mean, starting centre-backs Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic played for the first time together all season just two weeks ago against Liverpool.
The likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans have all suffered key injuries throughout the year—as well as Vidic—so to have only conceded the number of goals that United have is a very strong achievement indeed.
When the players mentioned are healthy, then the Red Devils have a very strong squad on hand—both now and for the future.
If Ferdinand leaves, then Evans is more than capable of partnering with Vidic at the back. When he leaves, Smalling can partner with Evans in central defense—there are long-term options there for the Manchester club in terms of central defenders.
However, and this is where the transfer rumors come in, while United might appear to be sound defensively, the truth is, they simply haven't been solid at the back—they've allowed cheap goals to poor teams and failed to shut out opponents often enough.
Last week's draw with Tottenham Hotspur was a good example of how they haven't been that great defensively this season, despite the results.
And if we're going to be completely honest here, Rio Ferdinand is getting old (34 at the moment), and he will be on his way out at Old Trafford in the near future. Whether that be by choice or by management, transferring him still remains to be seen. Regardless, the England international isn't going to be at United for that many more seasons.
So the move to replace Ferdinand with Ezequiel Garay isn't a bad one in the sense that United could use an upgrade on the veteran defender.
The biggest question now becomes as to whether the transfer of Garay is viable—both from a United and Benfica point of view—especially in terms of league position, current situation and monetary attachments to the player.
Benfica are currently top of the table in the Portuguese Primeira Liga and looking good for a Champions League berth next season.
They are in a tight race with Porto for the top spot, but seeing that the deal mentioned by Marca suggests an end-of-year move, the club would not miss out not the defender's presence in its title chase.
At that level, the transfer seems to hold up.
The biggest question that still hangs over this deal—and it's a big one—is about the money that United would have to pay the club for Garay, especially if they can get that figure down to around £10-12 million for Garay like the original Marca report suggested (h/t Express).
The defender is currently rated at £12 million by Transfermarkt, but the original report suggests that the Red Devils may have to pay closer to £15 million or even £20 million if they wish to sign the defender.
They would get around £5 million from whomever they sold Ferdinand to (providing they sold him), which would help in their costs for Garay—who, at £15 million, is actually quite a good value.
So at that level, the deal doesn't seem completely unreasonable for United to be pursuing over the winter transfer window.
It might seem bold, but looking at the options, this transfer rumor actually stacks up in line with both clubs' current contexts and circumstances.
The Red Devils do need to replace Ferdinand, and Benfica could definitely use the money. Keeping him until the end of the season would be huge for the club also.
By keeping Garay until the summer transfer window, Benfica have every opportunity to qualify for the Champions League spot they desire and in doing so, achieve further funding go pick up a new defender as his replacement.
I'm sold on this one happening for United—as strange as that might seem—as long as it takes place in the summer transfer window and not now.
Other than that, there aren't too many areas where this transfer falls apart.
Should Manchester United try and sign Ezequiel Garay this season?
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