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Manchester United: Assessing the top four centre-half targets

Manchester United’s disappointing start to the season has exposed several weaknesses in a squad that was tipped to challenge for major silverware this season.

One of the most pressing issues is the lack of quality cover at centre-half following injuries to first-choice pairing Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez.

Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof and Jonny Evans are United’s primary alternatives, highlighting the shortage of options available to manager Erik Ten Hag.

Having lost four of their first eight games in the Premier League, the Red Devils are already playing catch-up in the race to finish in the top four.

The latest odds revealed by reflect their current position, as they’re priced at 4/1 with Sky Bet to finish in the top four this season.

Sky Bet’s betting odds suggest United may have their work cut out to finish in the top six, which would be a major disappointment after claiming third place last term.

Latest Premier League odds – top-four finish

  • Manchester City – 1/20
  • Arsenal – 1/6
  • Liverpool – 2/7
  • Tottenham Hotspur – 11/10
  • Newcastle United – 7/4
  • Brighton & Hove Albion – 7/2
  • Chelsea – 4/1
  • Manchester United – 4/1
  • Aston Villa – 5/1
  • West Ham United – 33/1

Odds displayed verified on October 10, 2023 (8.00 pm). Odds are subject to change.

United must address the centre-back issue

When Varane and Martinez are fully fit, they are undoubtedly a match for any other centre-half pairing in the Premier League.

However, their injury problems brutally expose United’s lack of depth in a position where consistency of performance is key.

Maguire’s form has dropped off a cliff over the past year or so, and United cannot rely on him to cover for Varane or Martinez.

Lindelof and Evans are willing workers, yet both players lack the quality Ten Hag needs if his team are to challenge for the top four.

While resolving the issue in January is crucial to United’s hopes of hauling themselves over the line, achieving the feat will not be easy.

Nice defender Jean-Clair Todibo was linked with the club this summer, and he has the necessary attributes to fit into Ten Hag’s style of play.

However, he will want assurances of a regular place in the first team – something the manager will be unable to offer with Varane and Martinez in the mix.

Prosing him away from Nice will also be extremely difficult, with the club currently challenging towards the top end of Ligue 1.

Bayer Leverkusen defender Edmond Tapsoba has been tipped to move to the Premier League for some time now, but getting a deal done in January will likely be impossible.

Leverkusen are genuine contenders to win the Bundesliga this season and will be extremely unwilling to lose the services of one of their top players.

Sporting Lisbon’s Goncalo Inacio is another potential option for United, and he could be a more viable transfer target than Todibo or Tapsoba.

The Red Devils have been monitoring Inacio’s progress over the past 18 months, and Sporting are not averse to selling players if a suitable offer is made.

While United could attempt to sign Inacio in January, promising Benfica centre-half Antonio Silva appeals as their most realistic defensive target.

The teenager played a key role in Benfica’s title success last season, and a €100 million release clause in his contract is problematic.

However, the Portuguese giants have a long history of asking expensive fees for players before negotiating down to a more manageable figure.

Given his age and potential for future development, United should pull out all the stops to sign Silva during the January transfer window.