Manchester United is actively searching for a robust central defender to join their ranks next summer, due to Raphael Varane’s susceptibility to injuries and the dual surgeries Lisandro Martinez has undergone on his right foot this year.
The future of Harry Maguire at the club remains uncertain despite his recent uptick in form, while the contracts of Jonny Evans and Victor Lindelof are winding down, expiring in the summer. Though, it’s worth noting that United has the option to extend Lindelof’s stay by an additional year.
In light of these circumstances, ex-United legend Rio Ferdinand has pointed out two potential recruits that could strengthen the team’s backline: Kevin Danso from Lens and Ronald Araujo of Barcelona.
At 25 years old, Danso has a history with United, having been sent off while playing against them in August 2019 as a Southampton player. Nevertheless, he played a crucial role in Lens’s Champions League qualification last season. Araujo, 24, is a key player in Barcelona’s defensive lineup and hails from Uruguay.
Ferdinand, sharing his insights with the Manchester Evening News, lauded both players. “The boy at Lens, there’s one there, he’s good,” he remarked, adding, “The Uruguayan boy at Barcelona – Araujo. Whether he’s gettable or not, I think he’s brilliant. He’s an unreal centre half.”
He further emphasized Araujo’s suitability for the Premier League, stating, “He has every attribute to be perfect for the Premier League. I’d probably say he’s the standout, but whether he’s gettable or not, I don’t know.”
Despite setting a record for the most clean sheets in the previous Premier League season, United has conceded 13 goals in 11 matches this term, resulting in a negative goal difference. With Martinez out of action until at least late November due to a metatarsal injury, the team is feeling the pressure. However, Varane is back in action.
United experienced a dip in form last season during the Europa League quarter-final first leg draw with Sevilla, a game in which both Varane and Martinez had to leave the pitch due to injuries. This marked the start of a challenging period, with only six wins in the subsequent 13 games.
Ferdinand underscored the importance of a stable defense for a successful team, noting the consistent backlines of recent champions Liverpool and Manchester City, something United has lacked. He highlighted Martinez’s particular importance, stating, “But Martinez has been a huge, huge loss. His personality, his character, his ability on the ball has been exactly what Ten Hag wants and United were at their best last season when those two were playing together.”
He also pointed out that injuries provide opportunities for other players to step up, with Maguire currently in a good position. “But, again, with every person who falls away and gets injured, there’s an opportunity for someone else and at the moment, Harry Maguire seems to have that shirt. Hopefully that form continues now.”
Varane has been absent from 35 out of 123 possible United games, and the team is managing his playing time carefully, resting him for a recent match against Sheffield United to ensure his availability for a subsequent game against Copenhagen. This echoes Ferdinand’s own experience towards the end of his career at United when he had to carefully manage his game and training time due to a persistent back issue. Reflecting on this, Ferdinand said, “I had to manage a lot of my games and my training time,” and pondered whether Varane is currently in a similar situation.