Manchester United Transfer News: Latest on Mehdi Benatia and Marcos Rojo

Stuart NewmanFeatured ColumnistAugust 17, 2014

ROME, ITALY - DECEMBER 22:  Mehdi Benatia of AS Roma celebrates after scoring the third team's goal during the Serie A match between AS Roma and Calcio Catania at Stadio Olimpico on December 22, 2013 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

As Manchester United fans sat with their heads in their hands watching Swansea City claim three points at Old Trafford on Saturday, one thing was crystal clear—the need to invest is greater than ever.

The same players mean the same problems for new manager Louis van Gaal, but an opening-day defeat may not be the worst thing to happen to United.

Such a result (and sloppy performance) will open the club’s eyes to the need to bring some new talent to Manchester, and here, we look at two defenders that could make the cut.

 

Mehdi Benatia

BERGAMO, ITALY - DECEMBER 01:  Mehdi Benatia of AS Roma in action during the Serie A match between Atalanta BC and AS Roma at Stadio Atleti Azzurri d'Italia on December 1, 2013 in Bergamo, Italy.  (Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Roma’s Mehdi Benatia has been the subject of mass transfer speculation throughout the summer, but it appears that Manchester United have now moved into pole position to land the highly rated defender.

As Sky Sports’ Jim White revealed, Benatia could be joining Manchester soon, with the Red Devils looking to secure a deal for his services:

The 27-year-old was one of Roma’s standout performers in Serie A last term, warranting a reported £24 million bid from United recently—per Rob Shepherd of the Daily Mail.

While a staggering transfer fee, Saturday’s match with Swansea proved that defensive additions are absolutely essential at Old Trafford, as Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Tyler Blackett simply weren’t up to scratch.

You can’t go a lot higher in terms of a replacement than Benatia, though, and £24 million seems a reasonable price to pay for a defender on top of his game.

ROME, ITALY - JANUARY 12:  Mehdi Benatia (L) with his team-mate Francesco Totti of AS Roma celebrates after scoring their fourth during the Serie A match between AS Roma and Genoa CFC at Stadio Olimpico on January 12, 2014 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Jones, Smalling and Blackett are talented players, sure, but what United so sorely need after the departures of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic is a leader for their defensive revolution.

Benatia is that and more, and while he recently told Roma fans to “relax” as he was “staying put” in Serie A—per ESPN—United fans can officially begin to get excited.

ROME, ITALY - APRIL 02: Amauri (L)  of FC Parma competes for the ball with Mehdi Benatia of AS Roma during the Serie A match between AS Roma and FC Parma at Olimpico Stadium on April 2, 2014 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)
Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Though much of the deal still needs to be ironed out, such is the necessity of Benatia’s transfer that United’s management won’t be stubborn on the financial front.

In return, they’ll seal a deal for one of the best defenders in European football, but even then, it’s not quite enough to reverse the club’s gloomy fortunes.

 

Marcos Rojo

VESPASIANO, BRAZIL - JULY 06: Marcos Rojo of Argentina controls the ball during the Argentina training session at Cidade do Galo on July 6, 2014 in Vespasiano, Brazil. (Photo by Netun Lima/Getty Images)
Netun Lima/Getty Images

The next step of bringing back the days of United being a fearsome force in the Premier League is luring Marcos Rojo to Old Trafford, another player whose rumours have been piling up during the transfer window.

The Sporting Lisbon star impressed greatly with Argentina at the World Cup in Brazil, with the kind of performances that make links with the likes of Manchester United far from surprising—as WhoScored.com’s statistics show:

Rojo is as versatile as they come in terms of a defender, with the ability to play anywhere across the back line.

Such a trait would be incredibly useful to Van Gaal in his 3-5-2 system, and while the 24-year-old loves getting forward, Rojo’s defensive brilliance is what the Dutch manager really wants him for.

Shepherd’s report stated that United recently made a £15 million bid for the Argentinian, resulting in Sporting knocking back the bid and Rojo himself handing in a transfer request.

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 13: Marcos Rojo of Argentina challenges Thomas Mueller of Germany during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina at Maracana on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Julian Finne
Julian Finney/Getty Images

It seems that the Red Devils are now clear to pursue and bring Rojo in but new developments mean that it’s not quite as simple as that.

Controversial management company Doyen Sports own 75 per cent of the defender, meaning that a hefty chunk of the transfer fee paid to Lisbon will go to them—£11.25 million if the £15 million bid had have been accepted.

With that in mind, Jack De Menezes of The Independent wrote that the Portuguese giants are holding out for a £24 million bid for Rojo, giving them a healthy profit despite Doyen being the main beneficiaries of the move.

BELO HORIZONTE, BRAZIL - JUNE 21:  Andranik Teymourian of Iran tackles Marcos Rojo of Argentina  during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Argentina and Iran at Estadio Mineirao on June 21, 2014 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.  (Photo by Paul
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

De Menezes wrote that the transfer saga has caused somewhat of a stir at Sporting, with Doyen releasing a statement outlining their rights in the transfer:

"Sporting is entirely within its rights not to transfer the player Marcos Rojo, knowing that it only has to make up for the fund under the terms and deadlines as contractually established since the beginning."

PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL - JUNE 25:  Marcos Rojo of Argentina celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group F match between Nigeria and Argentina at Estadio Beira-Rio on June 25, 2014 in Porto Alegre, Brazil.  (Photo by
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

It all means that United will likely have to pay over the odds if they want to bring Rojo to Old Trafford, and while he’ll definitely make a big impact, such money can be better spent elsewhere.

With just a few weeks of the transfer window remaining, the only concrete fact at this point in time is that Van Gaal needs to act fast to improve his squad.

Landing Benatia and Rojo would certainly be a good place to start, but it’s crystal clear that improvements are needed all over the pitch—not just at the back.