Report: Manchester United Want Either Nikola Milenkovic or Joachim Andersen

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistNovember 21, 2018

FLORENCE, ITALY - OCTOBER 21: Nikola Milenkovic of ACF Fiorentina in action during the Serie A match between ACF Fiorentina and Cagliari at Stadio Artemio Franchi on October 21, 2018 in Florence, Italy.  (Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images)
Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has told the Red Devils he wants to sign a centre-back in January and has handed the club a two-man short list containing the names of Nikola Milenkovic and Joachim Andersen.

United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward vetoed Mourinho's plans to buy a central defender in the summer, and the Manchester giants have suffered a terrible start to the season as a result.

According to Sky in Italy via Sky Sports (h/t Metro), Mourinho wants to attract rising Fiorentina starlet Milenkovic to Old Trafford but would also be pleased with the capture of Sampdoria defender Andersen.

GENOA, GE - SEPTEMBER 19:  Federico Chiesa of Fiorentina opposed to Joachim Andersen of Sampdoria during the serie A match between UC Sampdoria and ACF Fiorentina at Stadio Luigi Ferraris on September 19, 2018 in Genoa, Italy.  (Photo by Paolo Rattini/Get
Paolo Rattini/Getty Images

Both players have youth on their side, with Milenkovic only 21 and Andersen just 22.

Milenkovic featured for Serbia at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and is regarded as one of Italy's toughest young defenders.

The former Partizan Belgrade player can feature in the centre or at right-back, and his tall frame makes him ideal for Mourinho's needs.

Per Sky in Italy, Juventus, Chelsea and Arsenal are monitoring the defender, with Fiorentina declaring they turned down a £36 million offer for the Serb last summer.

Brazil's forward Neymar (L) challenges Serbia's defender Nikola Milenkovic during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group E football match between Serbia and Brazil at the Spartak Stadium in Moscow on June 27, 2018. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO

La Nazione (h/t Calciomercato.com) recently reported the Serie A side had rejected a €60 million (£52.8 million) bid tabled by United, with Mourinho desperate to land Milenkovic after scouting him during Serbia's match against Montenegro in the UEFA Nations League.

Ciaran Kelly of the Manchester Evening News highlighted the United boss could have been evaluating a number of players at the game:

Ciaran Kelly @MENCKelly

Serbia boss Mladen Krstajic claims Jose Mourinho will attend Thursday's match vs Montenegro even though Nemanja Matic is injured. Mourinho previously watched winger Mijat Gacinovic and obviously likes Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Nikola Milenković a highly-rated centre-back too #mufc

Sky in Italy added United also reportedly have their eye on Andersen, with the Dane impressing during his outings in Genoa. Juve and Inter Milan will offer United competition for the player's signature should Mourinho switch his attentions.

Both defenders are two of Europe's burgeoning centre-back talents, but Mourinho has a poor record in signing players for his back-four.

Victor Lindelof signed from Benfica for £31 million in 2017 and has struggled to make the breakthrough at the Theatre of Dreams. The Sweden international was purchased as a hugely promising ball-playing defender, but Mourinho has showed little faith in his ability.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Eric Bailly also arrived to fanfare from Villarreal for £30 million. Mourinho lauded the Ivory Coast international as he signed on the dotted line, but once again, the United boss has failed to integrate a major signing.

United must move out one of their centre-backs in January, and the club's choice of mediocre defenders has vastly affected performances.

Lindelof and Bailly could still develop into quality Premier League operators, but they need a coach who will fill them with confidence and give them quality tactical direction.

Andre Penner/Associated Press

The similarities between Milenkovic and former United captain Nemanja Vidic cannot be ignored, and the club have failed to replace the world-class partnership the big Serb had with Rio Ferdinand under iconic manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Milenkovic would be hugely popular with the Stretford End due to his imposing size, and Mourinho could get the bruising centre-back he craves.