At the time the Premier League released its fixture for the season, not many thought this would be much of a contest.
Manchester United’s defence is one of the best in Europe in terms of depth.
From the experienced Victor Lindelof, Luke Shaw, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Harry Maguire to up-and-coming Diogo Dalot, Brandon Williams, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Teden Mengi, Axel Tuanzebe and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Manchester United have options.
However, particularly with the more experienced defenders, they lack a sense of wow factor evident in the midfield and the attack via players like Paul Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.
Don’t get me wrong, Victor Lindelof is one of the most underrated players in the Premier League. This is backed up by the statistic that not one player dribbled pass him this EPL season as of 13 January, 22 games in (there are no stats available after that point).
However, the defensive unit as a whole needs a bit of reinforcement provided by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Despite being one of England’s most expensive defenders of all time, Maguire’s not worth the A$143 million the club acquired him for last season. Nonetheless, he’s still a good player, with a tackle success rate of 68 per cent for United and winning 51.64 per cent of his duels – but $143 million is just too much for a player who has a current value of $92 million.
So the big question: who should Manchester United buy to help strengthen the defence?
The answer: former Tottenham and current Belgium centre-back and occasional left-back Jan Vertonghen. Having played 232 EPL games, he has 72 clean sheets to his name. Although he is 33, he had a tackle success rate of 75 per cent and, in 2018-19 and played a massive role in helping Tottenham reach the Champions League final for the first time in the London club’s history.
In terms of price, as he is recently a free agent, no signing fees are necessary, so if the Red Devils cash out on Jadon Sancho or Jack Grealish, Vertonghen would still be within the price range.
Due to his age (33), if United were to acquire him, he would be at the club for only around two to five years. This is fine, as in that time youngsters like Williams, Wan-Bissaka, Tuanzebe and Fosu-Mensah would have played many more first-team matches and be top-level, experienced players in their own right.
Signing Belgian Jan Vertonghen would be a good purchase for the club because he provides over seven years of experience playing at the top level in the EPL, he would be something of a role model for younger defenders coming through and he comes with no signing fee, leaving room to spend money elsewhere too.