One of the biggest problems for Manchester United to overcome since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement is creating a stable and solid defence. David Moyes played the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic into the ground during his one-and-only season in charge at Old Trafford, and both centre backs, whilst aging didn’t stick around for Louis van Gaal’s reign. The Dutchman struggled to find a suitable solution to United’s defensive woes, either; the purchase of Marcos Rojo arguably gave United more cover, but it didn’t improve the quality of their options. Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Jonny Evans all had the option to step up into the roles vacated by Ferdinand and Vidic, but neither managed to prove much beyond their own inconsistencies.
Tyler Blackett and Paddy McNair, two of the club’s youth prospects were also trailed at centre back by Van Gaal, with mixed to disappointing results. That summer of 2014, when the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona manager was given the role also marked the departure of Michael Keane from the club to Burnley, with the academy product spending the first half of the 2014/15 season on loan before making a permanent move to Turf Moor in January.
Keane has gone on to make 67 appearances and contribute six goals for the Clarets in that time, and has become an integral part of Sean Dyche’s defence. Indeed, he was part of the tremendous defensive display that saw Burnley grab a thoroughly unlikely 0-0 draw at Old Trafford recently as United peppered the visitor’s goal with 37 shots. Keane was exceptional throughout, and that’s led several outlets, including SkyBet ( which is owned by Skysports ) to suggest that a move back to his old club may be on the cards. They’ve put United down as favourites to sign him during January’s transfer window.
The likelihood of a deal happening is tough to gauge. Keane, having been called up to the England squad this week by Gareth Southgate is arguably playing excellent football, and has been part of a side that has re-adapted to the Premier League well this season having achieved promotion from the Championship in May. Burnley currently sit 9th, as a result.
What United really need, however, is proven quality if they are to strengthen their options at centre back. Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Daley Blind have all been given chances this season, but cannot be regarded as long-term options unless they display either some consistency or, in the case of Jones, stay fit. As such, whilst a move for Keane is certainly romantic, given how well Paul Pogba’s return to Old Trafford from Juventus has gone so far, it’s not necessarily a move that United need to make at this point.