Scouting Report on 5 Manchester United Defensive Targets
With the January transfer window creeping slowly towards us, I thought it was a good idea to take a look at some of the progress a few of Manchester United's key targets have been making so far this season.
It's no secret that the start the English champions have made to the defence of their title has been far from an encouraging one for Red Devils supporters.
With sloppy points dropped at home to the likes of Southampton and West Brom, David Moyes has a tough job on his hands steering this season back on course.
In order for that to happen, he is more than likely going to have to make serious improvements to his squad come the winter window.
While notable adjustments need to be made in the United midfield, it is relevant to point out that their defensive prowess has been closer to that of a relegation candidate so far this campaign than it has to a team pushing for a Champions League spot (or higher).
As such, let's take a look at a few possible options for Moyes to bolster that disappointing defence.
I'll also provide a rating for each target as to how high the chances are of them coming this January from one to 10 (with 10 being most likely and one the reverse).
So, without further ado, let's get started.
Touted by some as the "next Nemanja Vidic" (one has to wonder if the Serbian link alone merits that title), Neven Subotic has certainly proven his worth as a central defender on the world stage.
Having been an instrumental cog in the back-to-back Bundesliga titles that Borussia Dortmund won at the start of the decade—and also playing a huge role in their eventual runner-up spot in the 2012-13 UEFA Champions League campaign—the 25-year-old's CV speaks for itself.
This season has seen much of the same from Subotic, who continues to earn a spot in the BVB first team ahead of a bevy of fierce competition.
Strong, determined and with great positional awareness and aerial ability, a player such as Neven is exactly what United need to come in and exorcise the demons currently inhabiting the Manchester United defence.
This is one of those deals that has been bouncing around the rumour mill for the best part of a year-and-a-half now. Usually when something is as long-standing as that, it has to be based in some kind of truth.
Some sources, including the Express, are even suggesting that Shinji Kagawa may be used as a bargaining tool to encourage the German side to sell—with the man from Japan potentially making a return to Dortmund.
If not, United may have to fork out as much as £21 million to get their centre-back. In today's inflated transfer market, that may not be a bad bit of business for Moyes and co.
Leighton Baines has been linked with Manchester United for as long as this writer can remember.
Admittedly, my memory is awful at times so that doesn't necessarily mean much.
Still, it's unquestionable that Baines and United have seemingly been destined to team up at some point in the future and many are speculating that may be as soon as this January.
Currently one of the best left-backs (if not the best) that the Barclays Premier League has to offer, Baines would be the ideal replacement for the ageing Patrice Evra.
So far he has enjoyed a successful start to the season with his Everton side, who sit a point ahead of United in the table.
While some question Baines' defensive abilities at times—claiming that he is more inclined to attack and neglects the "less glamorous" aspect of the game—he has thus far this year made a notable improvement in this more conservative department.
Now challenging Ashley Cole for a first-team spot in the England side, Baines has come a long way from the young man who once played for Wigan Athletic.
In all honesty, this move should be fairly straightforward for United.
However, as the last couple of years have proven, Everton chairman Bill Kenwright is not willing to let his star man go without putting up a major fight—and fair play to him.
While as a United fan, it would be nice to see Baines arrive, one has to admire the resilience shown by Kenwright under such pressure from an elite side like United.
However, with the David Moyes' factor (needless to explain to readers—he is, after all, the former Everton coach), one has to assume that it's a matter of "when" and not "if" in regards to Baines' arrival at Old Trafford.
Andrea Ranocchia is probably not a name that many United fans expected to see on this list.
Having never really grabbed the headlines before 2011—when a decent spell at former club Genoa earned him a move to Italian powerhouse Inter Milan—Ranocchia has since been elevated to a full-blown member of the Italian national squad.
This season the centre-back has made a fantastic start with Internazionale, playing a critical part in their seeming rejuvenation after several years of Europa League obscurity.
Aged just 25, Ranocchia is beginning to show a level of quality that many overlooked during his younger years.
With a wealth of experience to call upon already, and several years of top-quality playing time still left in the tank, David Moyes would do well to spot this diamond in the rough.
While the signing of Ranocchia would be beneficial for Manchester United, there has been little to no speculation around the Italian's potential move to Old Trafford.
Other than a few Italian rumours at the start of the summer window, there has been no movement on the champions' part for this promising defender.
Perhaps Moyes will shock us and go in for the former Genoa and Bari man. Ultimately, however, it seems extremely unlikely.
The Southampton full-back is currently part of a defence which has shipped a meagre four goals so far this season (and one of those was that crazy Asmir Begovic "strike").
As such, it's only natural that the most bright and promising star of that stalwart defence is suddenly being touted as one of the next best things in English football.
The 18-year-old is by a long way the youngest name on this list for a reason. United need a solid, reliable and experienced player to come in at this point—not a rash and at times inconsistent teenager.
While Shaw is young, the level of maturity that he demonstrates in his play gives him an elevated boost above other defenders of his age.
Much like Baines, Luke plays at left-back and would undoubtedly prove to be a solid long-standing servant to the club if he was snapped up at such a tender age.
Likelihood: 1/10 if Leighton Baines is signed, 9/10 if not
This all really depends on whether or not United can secure the services of the man most people would wisely assume is United's top transfer target for January.
If Baines is signed, then spending a chunky sum of money on two players of the same position (when, after all, Patrice Evra is still at the club) seems a little silly.
However, if United fail in their efforts to acquire the Everton left-back, then it is highly likely that the backroom staff will go out of their way to ensure they do at least bring in some kind of cover for the position in the winter.
Shaw will almost certainly be the candidate for that reserve role.
Benfica's Ezequiel Garay was seemingly on his way to Manchester United over the summer...but was then just never signed.
As it turns out, that was because David Moyes allegedly blocked the £18 million transfer upon his arrival, per an interview Garay gave with the Daily Mail.
So, why then would I even bother to include a player whom the current United boss declined to have in his squad?
Well, yes, Moyes did stop the transfer, but not because of any issues with Garay's on-field ability, more the amount of money that the club was forking out could be used towards bringing in the likes of Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines.
Eventually only Fellaini would arrive at the club (for a whopping £28.5 million).
With things not going as well as Moyes might have expected, I wouldn't be totally shocked to see him change his stance on the Argentinian centre-back this winter—even if it is out of desperation.
While there may be an outside chance that United do opt to go back in for Garay, one has to give Moyes the benefit of the doubt that he seems to be a manager that sticks firmly to his principles.
If David didn't want to sign Garay when he had him on a platter over the summer, then chances are high that he won't be looking to bring him to Old Trafford now.
Still, the aforementioned desperation that may or may not have set in come January could see a twist in his stance should other defensive targets seem unavailable.