Manchester United are understood to be in the market for a new centre-back this summer, with the Red Devils keen to find a long-term partner to club captain Harry Maguire.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side have progressed this season, but have seen early season hopes of a title challenge fade in recent months, falling way adrift of league leaders Manchester City with attentions now turning towards the summer window.
Centre-back appears a priority with none of the club’s current options having truly convinced, Victor Lindelof’s performances underwhelming and Eric Bailly’s fitness hindering his hopes of making a meaningful impact.
With that in mind we’ve looked at some of the names to have been linked with a move to Old Trafford in recent months and assess which defender would be the ideal addition to Solskjaer’s squad.
Jules Kounde’s name continues to be linked with Europe’s elite following his stellar showings for Sevilla, the centre-back having forged a reputation as one of the best young defenders in world football.
Kounde has enjoyed a meteoric rise since making his Bordeaux debut just over three years ago, his huge potential quickly spotted by the Spanish side who secured his signing in a €25m deal.
His reputation has continued to enhance since making the move to Seville, attracting interest from some of the biggest clubs in world football with Manchester City reported to have made an approach last summer.
The 22-year-old plays with a maturity that defies his relative inexperience, his style of defending rather back-foot as he patiently awaits the right moment to dispossess opponents and force mistakes.
Kounde’s measured approach to defending could see him emerge as an ideal partner for the more domineering Maguire, the latter providing an aggressive aerial threat as the potential signing uses his pace and positional intelligence to cover the gaps in behind.
Kounde is unlikely to come cheap with Sevilla having reportedly rejected significant bids last summer, though he could be a fixture in the Manchester United side for the next decade.
Raphael Varane has been continually linked with a move to Manchester United in recent seasons, the Red Devils long-term admirers of player who has developed into one of the world’s best centre-backs at Real Madrid.
The Spanish champion’s successes – including winning four Champions League trophies in just five seasons between 2014 and 2018 – have made prising Varane away from the Bernabeu an impossible task, though this summer could prove the most realistic opportunity to tempt the France international.
Varane has stalled on signing a new contract with Los Blancos and there have been suggestions the 27-year-old is keen on a new challenge, a move to the Premier League appearing his likeliest destination.
The centre-back will have just a year remaining on his deal this summer and Real Madrid could now cash in to avoid the risk of losing him on a free transfer, whilst Zinedine Zidane’s side are also keen to raise funds for their pursuit of either Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland.
That situation could result in a fee being accepted below his market value, a scenario that would alert any leading side in need of a centre-back given Varane’s quality, experience and elegant style of defending.
Varane has had a strong claim as the world’s best central defender in recent years and remains in the peak years of his career, his signing one that could potentially have a transformative impact on Manchester United’s defensive fortunes, in a similar fashion to Liverpool and Manchester City’s deals for Virgil van Dijk and Ruben Dias respectively.
One name that has regularly been circled amongst the transfer talk has been Nikola Milenkovic, the Fiorentina defender understood to have attracted admiring glances from both Manchester United and Liverpool.
Milenkovic has been a regular for La Viola over the past four seasons and has thrived during the current campaign in a back three system, often starting on the right of the three and covering wide areas as his side progress up the pitch.
The Serbia international has also featured at right-back and is dominant in the air, his 6ft 4 frame providing him with a sizeable advantage when it comes to aerial contests with opposition forwards.
Milenkovic ranks second in the division for aerials won and fifth for % of aerials won, whilst his intelligent defending and comfortability in possession have marked him out as a target for Premier League sides.
Although the 23-year-old may not possess the athletic attributes of some of the other contenders on this list, he is a player whose stock has continued to rise and appears ready for the step up to one of Europe’s biggest sides.
As those of you who like to gamble online will be aware, shopping around for the best list of low deposit casinos is a key to success, and Milenkovic may just offer Man United an excellent chance to strengthen at a relatively low price in an overinflated transfer market.
Bayern Munich’s capture of Dayot Upamecano has seen RB Leipzig lose of their biggest assets, and the Bundesliga side could yet see a second centre-back depart with Ibrahima Konate interesting clubs abroad.
Manchester United are one of a number of Premier League sides said to have been monitoring the young Frenchman, who is amongst the latest young talents to have thrived after being spotted by Red Bull’s impressive recruitment system.
Konate has quietly impressed in the shadow of Upamecano during his time with the Bundesliga side, going somewhat under the radar as his compatriot won admirers for his forward forays from deep.
The 21-year-old’s style of defending is more simplistic but no less effective, a physically dominating defender with great recovery pace and a determination to outfight and outwit opponents.
Konate’s raw athleticism could make him an ideal partner for the more cumbersome Maguire, with many having suggested a centre-back with pace would be the best compliment for the Red Devils’ captain.
Persistent injuries are a major concern and have slowed the Frenchman’s development, however, and with Eric Bailly continuing to struggle for fitness the club will not want another centre-back addition to the treatment table.
Manchester United’s recruitment team have often opted for home-grown potential in recent seasons and in Ben White the club are said to be monitoring a player who has grown in stature over the past two campaigns.
The 23-year-old spent last season on loan with Leeds and starred in the club’s promotion-winning campaign, winning rave reviews for his performances in the Championship to spark interest from elsewhere.
Leeds were keen to secure a permanent deal but saw several offers – the highest understood to be around £25m – rejected by Brighton, who have integrated the defender into the first-team picture this season.
White’s first season at the highest level has been challenging in a struggling Seagulls side, but the raw attributes are there for a player who looks capable of stepping up another level.
White exudes confidence in possession with a press-resistant style, often finding a teammate when under pressure and showcasing his ball-playing ability by appearing in midfield for Brighton this season.
The youngster has been compared in style to John Stones and with the latter thriving on the opposite side of the Manchester divide this season, the Red Devils may be tempted to make a move for White and create an all-England pairing at centre-back.