The Defenders Manchester United Can Get to Firm Up Their Back Line
Manchester United's need for a new defender this summer is startlingly apparent.
With stalwarts such as Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand entering the winters of their careers, along with the frequently injured Nemanja Vidic far from guaranteed to play an entire season, it's fair to say the champion's back line has seen better days.
And this is exemplified by the fact United's defensive record last season was the worst in 11 years.
In the first 19 games of the 2012-13 Premier League season, United conceded 28 goals, an average of 1.47 goals per match. The last time they suffered a worse defensive record was in the 2001-02 season, which saw the Red Devils finish third in the table.
And, after starting their campaign with a porous defensive record last season, United ended it by shipping five goals against West Brom in a sensational 5-5 draw—the sort of performance that might have led to Sir Alex Ferguson looking for the nearest available plug socket of which to attach his infamous hairdryer to, had his side not won the Premier League title four games prior.
And it was only the fact United won the title that has led many to forget how shambolic United's defending was at times last season.
Yes, there are starlets emerging through the ranks that could prove to be the green shoots of recovery.
Youngsters such as Phil Jones and Chris Smalling look promising, but a knee operation and broken metatarsal respectively wrecked each player's seasons last term, limiting them to a scattering of appearances.
Which is why United need to firm up their back line this season.
Here are the four defenders who could help achieve that.
The Inter Milan centre-back has attracted interest from a number of the continent's leading clubs.
Since signing for Inter from Genoa in 2010, Ranocchia has gradually asserted himself at the heart of the San Siro club's defence, making 45 overall appearances for the Italians last season.
And, having played in Italy for the entirety of his career so far, which has taken in spells at Arezzo and Bari, perhaps the defender could be tempted by a change of scenery and a fresh challenge in England.
United need a new centre-back given the aforementioned issued with Ferdinand and Vidic and Ranocchia could be the perfect fit.
The centre-half was part of an Inter side that finished in a depressing ninth place in Serie A last season and with no European football to look forward to this term, the lure of playing regular Champions league football at the Theatre of Dreams could be an appealing one.
United have a long-standing interest in the Swansea City left-back that dates back to last summer when now-retired manager Sir Alex Ferguson first began his search for a back-up to Patrice Evra.
At the time, Fabio had just been sent out on loan to Queens Park Rangers, and having returned from a troublesome spell at Loftus Road that saw the Brazilian make just 21 Premier League appearances, there is still a feeling that United need some extra cover for Evra.
And that could lead to the champions rekindling their interest in the 24-year-old Wales international, who has just returned from a season-ending ankle injury.
Prior to breaking his ankle last September, Taylor was one of the Swan's more impressive of players during and after their promotion to the Premier League, and his form has not gone unnoticed in recent seasons, with Newcastle United showing an interest at one stage.
And if Taylor can stay free of injury, he could be a suitable, long-term replacement for Evra at United.
United have been linked with Ezequiel Garay for much of the summer with reports back in July claiming the Red Devils had reached agreement with Benfica for the centre-back's services.
It was claimed that the Premier League champions have a "gentleman's agreement" with the Portuguese club over the Argentine, though as of yet nothing has come to fruition.
And with a little over two weeks left of the transfer window, United are going to have to act quickly if they want to land Garay before the September 2 deadline.
United are prepared to offer the 26-year-old £6 million a year to make that happen, according to the Express, and are willing to pay a further £17 million to Benfica for the player.
Garay, who has spent time with Real Madrid and has been capped by his country 11 times, is a powerful, 6'4" centre-half of the Nemanja Vidic ilk and could be a fantastic, long-term replacement for the Serb.
He was part of the Benfica squad that reached the Europa League final against Chelsea last season and could be lining up against the Blues again a lot sooner than he may have thought.
And he wants to buy the defender again—for his new club United.
Baines would be the perfect long-term replacement for Patrice Evra and is already displacing Ashley Cole from the England set-up, with all signs pointing to the 28-year-old becoming the Three Lion's first-choice left-back in months to come.
And, with his international career looking nice and rosy, his club career could be about to be given a boost, too.
The prospect of (seriously) competing for the Premier League title and other trophies, along with the lure of regular Champions League football, could be enough to persuade Baines to swap Merseyside for Manchester and follow Moyes to the Theatre of Dreams.
If Everton are prepared to sell.