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Sporting Lisbon star Ousmane Diomande is the ball-playing defender Manchester United need to replace Raphael Varane

Harry Maguire has managed to force his way back into the starting XI at Manchester United after getting close to leaving the club in the summer, which has seen Raphael Varane drop down the pecking order.

Red Devils manager Erik ten Hag prefers to play the England international or the Frenchman on the right side of central defence, claiming the build-up play is not very fluid when one of them operates at left centre-back.

As a result, Varane has made his last three appearances for Man United from the bench and has played just 11 minutes of Premier League football since he was left out of the starting line-up against Manchester City last month.

The 30-year-old will be eager to force his way back into the starting XI but could have started considering his future at the Old Trafford club.

The fact that Jonny Evans is starting ahead of him speaks volumes, and Man United should be preparing for Varane’s potential departure.

They have already been linked with a return for OGC Nice defender Jean-Clair Todibo ahead of the January transfer window after failing to land him in the summer.

While the France international will be a solid replacement for his compatriot, Sporting Lisbon star Ousmane Diomande could be the perfect ball-playing defender Man United need to replace the 2018 World Cup winner.

The 19-year-old is a noticeable aerial presence in both boxes as he stands at 6ft 3in, and he has already established himself as a starter for the Primeira Liga club, making 33 appearances across all competitions since joining them from Midtjylland in January.

Diomande was on a season-long loan with Liga Portugal 2 club Mafra when Sporting cut it short halfway through the season to snap him up.

They have since slapped a £70 million release clause on his head and he is attracting Arsenal and Newcastle United.

According to the Sun, the Magpies have scouted the Ivorian at least three times this term and are planning to snap him up in January, but Man United should be looking to pip them to his services.

Diomande is comfortable playing in a back three or four, and while the Red Devils have been linked with his defensive teammate Goncalo Inacio, it is the teenage sensation they should be looking at.

While he predominantly plays as a right centre-back, he can also be deployed as an attacking wing-back and is very comfortable on the ball.

Diomande also has pace to burn and could be the perfect long-term replacement for Varane as the Red Devils look to start preparing for a much-needed rebuild at the back.

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