Manchester United have stepped up their search for a new centre back next season by narrowing down their options to a five-man shortlist.
According to ESPN, this is a priority position that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wishes to address in the summer as he continues his quest to restore United to the top of English football.
And the publication notes that Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane, Sevilla’s Jules Kounde, RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano, Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings and Braga’s David Carmo have been identified as the centre backs on his wishlist.
Varane’s future at Spanish giants Real is reportedly up in the air with the France international yet to sign a contract extension on his current deal that expires in 2022.
Kounde has become one of the most highly-rated young defenders in Europe and enhanced his reputation further with a stunning solo strike against Barcelona in Thursday’s Copa del Rey semi-final first leg. Previous reports claim that the 22-year-old would cost in the region of £60million.
Mings is an England international and would provide a balance to United’s backline due to his natural left foot and could complete an all-English back four with Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw potentially.
Carmo is another left-footed centre back option and the Red Devils have reportedly been tracking his progress for a while as have a number of clubs, including Liverpool in the January transfer window. Braga are under no pressure to sell with the youngster contracted until 2025 so a substantial fee would have to be offered to entice them.
Upamecano has been linked with a move to Old Trafford during the last two previous transfer windows but ESPN claim that United are increasingly resigned to the fact that Bayern Munich have stolen a march on the in-demand Leipzig star.
Despite sitting second in the Premier League, defence has been an issue for Solskjaer’s side this season. They have conceded 30 goals in 23 games this season – 16 more than table-toppers Manchester City who have played a game less.
In fact on Leeds United (38) have conceded more goals out of the teams in the top half of the table this season.
Solskjaer is desperate to solve this issue and find a centre-back partner for captain Harry Maguire. Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe have all played alongside the 27-year-old at various points this season.
And ESPN note that while the United board are willing to back their manager in the market, they won’t be held to ransom by clubs over transfer fees as they juggle their finances in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
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