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Why Gerard Pique Is the 1 Defender Manchester United Must Sign in January

Paul Ansorge@@utdrantcastFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2014

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Manchester United need to strengthen their defensive options in the January transfer window, and Gerard Pique’s combination of ability, experience and potential availability make him the perfect choice.

Pique is, of course, a former United player, having spent several of his formative years as part of the youth setup before leaving to return to Barcelona, a club of which he had been a member since the day he was born.

In 2009, Sid Lowe, writing in The Guardian, quoted Pique’s mother as saying the youngster had been "desperate to come back" to Spain during his time at United. 

ROME - MAY 27: Gerard Pique of Barcelona battles for the ball with Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Barcelona and Manchester United at the Stadio Olimpico on May 27, 2009 in Rome, Italy.  (Photo by Sh
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

His return saw him take a key role in Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering side. There was no clearer indicator of the improvement in his fortunes after leaving United than his place in the starting line-up of the 2009 Champions League final, which saw his new team defeat his old one. He got to do it all over again in 2011.

However, much has changed since then. Ed Malyon of the Mirror reports that Pique’s relationship with the Barcelona manager Luis Enrique "has become increasingly strained in recent weeks." Malyon suggests the situation is of interest to United and Chelsea. Nick Lustig of the Daily Star says Manchester City are also "keen on signing" Pique. 

United have been linked with a plethora of defenders, including Aymeric Laporte, per Barry Glendenning of The Guardian, Raphael Varane, per David Wright of the Express, and even a reunion with former club captain Nemanja Vidic, per Anthony Chapman of the Express.

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 07:  Gerard Pique of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal with team mate Nemanja Vidic (R) during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Manchester United and Dynamo Kyiv at Old Trafford on N
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Of the above, Varane would probably be the most attractive option, given he now has plenty of experience at a high level, although Real Madrid’s willingness to sell him may be of some concern. Even though Varane does have some experience, both he and Laporte are young players, and United are blessed with plenty of young centre-backs. What is missing is experience and consistency.

At his best, Vidic provided both in spades; however, his move to Inter Milan has been disastrous so far, and it is far from clear that he would return anything like his best.  

Mats Hummels was repeatedly linked with a move to Old Trafford over the summer, which did not materialise, and a recent report, by Izzy Horsefield of the Express, suggests the German would prefer a move to Arsenal. If Hummels appeared to be showing an interest in United, he may be a slightly better choice than Pique, given he edges the Catalan for physical prowess.

Pique, however, is blessed with enormous technical ability, and he would help United’s distribution from the back. In Lowe’s 2009 piece, Pique is quoted as saying "United made me a footballer," in reference to his physical strength. Guardiola’s influence, and his previous Barcelona upbringing, is obvious in his technical ability.

His falling out with Enrique and Barcelona is a little difficult to understand from the outside looking in, particularly as Pique was one of the Catalan club’s better performers last season, averaging 2.1 tackles, 2 interceptions and 5.5 clearances per game in La Liga, per WhoScored.com.

Pique's return to United would seem him also reunited with Louis van Gaal, a man who, per Lowe again, when having lunch with Pique’s club-director grandfather, shoved the then-14 year-old Barcelona youth prospect, knocking him down, before declaring "you’re too weak to be a Barcelona defender."

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28:  Eric Abidal (R) of FC Barcelona lifts the trophy and celebrates with teammates Victor Valdes (2L), Xavi (2R) and Gerard Pique (behind) after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United F
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Pique, like Van Gaal, has matured since then, and would be a superb addition to the Dutchman’s side, enabling United to build attacks from the back, providing a threat at set pieces, and adding huge experience of football at the highest level to a back line in need of just that.

That is why he is the defender United must sign, if there is a real chance of making it happen.

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