Manchester United Reportedly Target Medhi Benatia for January Transfer

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistNovember 6, 2018

TURIN,ITALY - OCTOBER 2: Medhi Benatia of Juventus in action during the Group H match of the UEFA Champions League between Juventus and BSC Young Boys at Juventus Stadium on October 2, 2018 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)
Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Manchester United are reportedly interested in signing out-of-favour Juventus defender Medhi Benatia after the centre-back suggested he wasn't content with his situation in Turin.

The two clubs will meet once more in UEFA Champions League Group H on Wednesday, and Tuttosport (h/t Mirror's Andrew Gilpin) reported Jose Mourinho will look to the Moroccan as an affordable winter solution to his defensive concerns.

Benatia recently expressed to La Stampa his dilemma in remaining at the Allianz Stadium and spoke of his disappointment with his lack of playing time this term ahead of Wednesday's European clash:

"I struggle to play with no consistency. I was doing well last season because I was playing on a regular basis.

"Now it's not the same. This is my job and I always need to work hard to be ready to play but it's a situation I don't like.

"I am 31 and I want to play as much as I can. Let's see what happens in January, how many games I will play. Let's see if Juve and Allegri need me. I am here to give my best and that's what I will do until I'm here.

"If the manager needs me in the Champions League I will be ready."

Mourinho's efforts to sign a star central defender in the summer were well-documented. Mark Critchley of the Independent wrote about failed moves to sign Toby Alderweireld, Harry Maguire, Jerome Boateng and Yerry Mina, among others, with the club's hierarchy failing to rally behind any of those supposed targets.

Journalist James Robson posted footage of Mourinho speaking after his side's recent comeback win at Bournemouth, where he touched on his defence's lack of sturdiness when they don't have the ball:

James Robson @jamesrobsonES

This is the most open Mourinho has been about his attempts to alter United’s defence-first strategy of his first two seasons. It also goes a long way to explaining why he was so intent on signing a centre back & what he considers his ideal attack #mufc https://t.co/1aa4t0uKZ1

Chris Smalling and Victor Lindelof have been Mourinho's centre-back pairing of choice this season and have made nine Premier League starts apiece in 2018-19. Eric Bailly and Phil Jones have made three and one, respectively, while Marcos Rojo has been frequently sidelined by injuries.

Benatia's conundrum is that he's challenging for high honours on an annual basis with the Bianconeri, but he's appeared only five times this term. He made 30 starts for Juventus last season but appeared to fall out of Massimiliano Allegri's favour towards the end of the campaign.

United's board were said to have concerns with longevity regarding targets like Bayern Munich stalwart Boateng, 30. Therefore, a move for Benatia in January would in part confirm the club's desperation to recruit a new star man at centre-back.

Juventus blogger Arjun Pradeep posted Tuttosport's cover on Tuesday, which referenced interest in Ajax's Matthijs de Ligt, a target who could be out of United's reach at present:

Arjun Pradeep @IndianRegista

🇮🇹 📰 | Front page of Tuttosport headlines that Juventus have identified de Ligt as Benatia's replacement. The Moroccan is reflecting a Juventus exit while the Dutchman is also on the radar of Manchester United and Barcelona. https://t.co/nNPsLfplkB

The Red Devils are seventh in the Premier League and won't be able to compete in the market as they once could, though a veteran eyeing first-team football and likely significant wages is within their reach.

Despite the mixed run of form, Mourinho has remained hopeful of securing Champions League football for next season, via Sky Sports:

There's no mention as to how much Juventus would demand if they were to sell Benatia, who has steep competition in Giorgio Chiellini, 34, Leonardo Bonucci, 31, Andrea Barzagli, 37, and Daniele Rugani, 24.

New rules also mean Benatia won't be cup-tied in Europe and could represent another team should United make it to the Champions League knockout stages.