Scouting Rumoured Manchester United Target Ezequiel Garay

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistJune 10, 2013

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - MAY 15:  Ezequiel Garay of Benfica tackles Ramires of Chelsea during the UEFA Europa League Final between SL Benfica and Chelsea FC at Amsterdam Arena on May 15, 2013 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

Ezequiel Garay is on course to be David Moyes’ first major signing as Manchester United manager.

As early as March, The Express picked up on stories in the Portugese press suggesting United had secured a £17 million deal. Those stories have resurfaced in recent days, with The Mirror stating that United are "more confident than ever" of signing the centre-back.

One can understand Garay’s desire to leave Benfica after their disastrous end to the season. The Portugese giants suffered their own nightmare treble in 2012/13, losing their domestic league and cup as well as the Europa League Final in dramatic circumstances.

The trauma of losing three major trophies to late goals will undoubtedly have scarred the centre-back. Moving to United, who generally profit rather than suffer from late goals, would be an effective antidote.

Garay fits the right age profile for United’s needs.

The current United squad has two experienced centre-halves in Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, but both are increasingly vulnerable to injury. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling offer hope of a solid future foundation, but neither is necessarily ready to inherit a starting spot on a full-time basis. Only Jonny Evans, aged 25, could be described as being at the peak of his career.

Garay will turn 27 in October, so he is approaching the optimum age for a central defender. 

At Benfica, Garay has typically partnered the powerful Luisao. Of the pair, Garay is the more technically gifted and adept on the ball. His style and composure means he could be looked upon as a potential successor to Rio Ferdinand.

Although the former England international has agreed a new contract extension for 2013/14, it is unlikely that the ageing defender will be asked to repeat last season’s feat of starting 26 Premier League games.

Replacing Ferdinand will not be easy. He is not only an accomplished and authoritative defender but the instigator of United’s attacking style. Few centre-backs in world football possess Ferdinand’s combination of grit and guile.

Garay is one of the few.

In recent months he has secured his spot as a regular starter for Argentina. In their system he is frequently asked to carry the ball upfield, feeding passes in to their more celebrated creative talents.

His technical skills don’t end there. In the 2006/07 season he scored nine goals in 30 appearances for Racing Santander. United have always relied on getting goals from all over the pitch, and Garay could certainly be expected to contribute.

If there are any doubts over Garay’s quality, they surround the fact that he has already had a chance at one of European football’s giants.

In 2008 he left Santander to join Real Madrid. After spending a further season on loan at Racing, he made the exciting move to the Bernabeu. However, after an inconsistent campaign in 2009/10, he was relegated to fourth-choice centre-back for the following year, before being sold to Benfica.

Garay has since flourished in Lisbon, but the shadow of his time at Madrid hangs over him. Benfica are a huge club but do not quite share the same global profile as Real and Man United.

United fans will hope that if Garay does move to Old Trafford, he will be motivated by a desire to prove he can cut it at European football’s elite level.

If he manages it, they’ll have quite the player on their hands.