Jose Mourinho has done some good since taking over as Manchester United manager in May; whilst results haven’t been fantastic, there’s definitely a sense of progression from the limp stoicism that plagued the Louis van Gaal era. Yet The Special One has been unable to fix United’s leaky defence. Here are five potential targets that the Portuguese might look at:
Diego Godin is a name that has been occasionally linked with United. The Uruguayan, 30, is reported to have a release clause of £30m via ESPN, which wouldn’t be an issue for a club with pockets as deep as United’s, but given his age, this should be regarded as a stop-gap option as opposed to one for the long-term.
His international and club colleague Jose Gimenez would arguably be a signing with the long-term in mind, given the youngster is just 21, but his price tag would be much steeper, with The Guardian suggesting that it could be as much as €50m (just under £44m). That’s a gigantic sum of money to part with for a player of his age, and certainly something that the club would not countenance unless Mourinho’s squad was subsequently trimmed.
It seemed in the weeks leading up to the summer transfer window closing that it was a case of when, not if Jose Fonte would move from Southampton to Manchester United, but a move for the Portuguese centre back never materialised. Reports suggested that the club’s inability to remove several high-earners from their squad (presumably Marcos Rojo and Bastian Schweinsteiger, for example) made bringing in any other players in the wake of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic impossible. The trail of Fonte to United has gone cold since late August, and a move to Old Trafford in January would subsequently come as a surprise.
Although United’s interest in one of Fonte’s colleagues may explain why any news of Fonte swapping the South Coast for the North West has gone quiet. According to a report in The Independent, Mourinho is looking at Southmapton defender Virgil van Dijk. The 25-year old Dutchman would reportedly help provide the sort of leadership and aggression that Mourinho feels is missing from his defence, which is tough to argue with. Chris Smalling has filled in as captain several times this season, but neither he nor Daley Blind would be regarded as particularly inspirational or vocal figures, and with David De Gea not regarded as a leader, despite his exceptional talent, perhaps a more vocal presence is needed in United’s back four.
Last on this list is a name that United fans have grown used to over the last few years; Lazio’s Stefan De Vrij. The Dutchman was constantly linked with a move to United during Louis van Gaal’s reign, but then again, so were many members of Van Gaal’s 2014 World Cup squad, and De Vrij himself has noted that this is where the rumours come from. Bleached Report also suggest that Arsenal and Chelsea are monitoring him, which could complicate any hypothetical approach of United’s.