As Manchester United's pre-season exploits continue in the U.S., Louis van Gaal has admitted he needs to bring in new defenders as he looks to rebuild the Red Devils squad.
Long-term central defensive duo Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand have both departed, and the Dutchman has expressed the need for new recruits despite the clean sheet against Inter Milan in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, as per Richard Tanner of the Daily Star:
We are doing well. We have conceded zero goals in two matches and a wonder goal and a penalty in the other match. But we are looking for defenders. Defenders have gone and we have to replace to them. I like [Tyler] Blackett and [Michael] Keane and we have to see if we can do more matches like today. Inter and Roma are for preparation but the Premier League will be different.
Let's take a look at some of the defenders reportedly being targeted by United and Van Gaal as they look to strengthen their back line.
Miranda, Atletico Madrid
Spanish paper Sport (via James Phillips of Metro) reports that Atletico Madrid are open to offers for their 29-year-old Brazilian centre-back Miranda with United supposedly interested, according to Jamie Anderson of the Daily Express (via Metro):
Miranda could be the man to boost Manchester United’s defensive options, after it emerged Atletico Madrid are open to offers.
Just weeks after Diego Simeone seemed to quash rumours of a Miranda exit, Spanish newspaper Sport are reporting that the Spanish champions are open to offers of around £23m.
Miranda played a key role as Diego Simeone's side won La Liga and reached the Champions League final last season, and he would add solidity to Van Gaal's 3-5-2 formation.
United's current options in the middle of defence are Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Phil Jones who, while certainly talented, are sometimes unreliable. Miranda could be the key component needed to consolidate the United defence, as he would provide the authority and the experience it currently lacks.
However, United may face competition from Premier League rivals Chelsea for the Brazilian's signature, as per Marca (via 101 Great Goals):
Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal
Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen has long been rumoured as a target for United since losing his starting spot with the Gunners, as per Ian Herbert in The Independent.
Should United pursue the signing of Vermaelen?
The most recent reports suggest the Red Devils are looking to push through a swap deal for the Belgian involving Portuguese winger Nani plus cash, as per James Dickenson in the Daily Express: "Van Gaal has not been impressed with Nani and will test the Gunners' interest with a player-plus-cash offer."
However, the 28-year-old Vermaelen is also of interest to La Liga giants Barcelona, according to beIN Sports' Tancredi Palmeri:
Arsenal's Vermaelen has been contacted by Barcelona, according to tomorrow Mundo Deportivo, after being contacted by Manchester United also— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) July 25, 2014
Despite losing his spot at Arsenal, Vermaelen is a top-class defender, and his wealth of Premier League experience would be an added bonus for United.
He would likely be interested in a move to Old Trafford, as he could almost be guaranteed regular first-team football, but Arsenal's reluctance to sell to a rival could prove a sticking point.
Mats Hummels, Borussia Dortmund
Perhaps the longest-running, United-related rumour of the summer, the talk of the potential signing of German World Cup winner Mats Hummels refuses to die.
This is even after Borussia Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp seemed to categorically deny any possibility of the 25-year-old centre-back leaving the club, as per German paper Ruhr Nachrichten (via Sky Sports): "What was today's rumour? Mats to Man U? For how much? 20 million? For a sum like that, you can forget about it anyway."
However, Dickenson reports another potential swap deal, with former Dortmund star Shinji Kagawa going the other way in exchange for Hummels.
While the transfer becomes more and more unlikely, Hummels does represent potentially the ideal signing for Van Gaal in defence, as per football journalist Rafael Hernandez:
Matthias Ginter signing with BVB doesn't necessarily mean Hummels will leave, even though he'd be ideal for Manchester United or Barcelona.— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) July 17, 2014
Hummels is strong with the ball at his feet—much like Ferdinand used to be—but is also a commanding presence at the back and strong in aerial duels, as well as being proven at the highest level.
But Van Gaal will surely have to look elsewhere, and Vermaelen seems to be the most likely of the three to make the move to Old Trafford.
He would fit well with any combination of Jones, Evans or Smalling, and with only a year left on his contract, he would likely be good value.