After an utterly horrific year, it should come as no surprise that Manchester United are already pressing ahead in the summer transfer market.
United limped across the finish line of the domestic campaign last weekend to bring the curtain down on their worst ever season in the Premier League, where they shipped more goals than ever before on their way to recording their lowest ever points tally in the modern era.
With major issues at the back, Villarreal defender Pau Torres has emerged as a potential summer signing for Erik ten Hag, who officially started his new role at Old Trafford this week. According to The Manchester Evening News, the United boss has been ‘consulted’ by the club hierarchy over a deal for Torres, who was also on United’s radar last summer.
United decided against signing Torres and instead opted to pursue a deal for Raphael Varane. The former Real Madrid man, like so many others, endured a sorry season – but acquiring Torres to replace the 29-year-old would leave Ten Hag with more problems than solutions.
With so many players pitching in with sub-par performances, it would be unjust to write off Varane – a former Champions League and World Cup winner – so soon. After all, his defensive partner, club captain Harry Maguire, fared no better alongside him and was yet another player who fell below the standards expected at a club like Manchester United.
Varane has struggled to adapt to the rigours of the Premier League and has been plagued by injuries this term, but he should all the better for the testing experience next season. Maguire should also benefit more than most from the respite that the off-season will bring.
But either way, someone will have to be the fall guy next year if Ten Hag and the club do decide to press ahead with their plan to bring in Torres – or any other centre-half – to try and shore up their shoddy defence.
While it’s hard to defend Manchester United’s defensive record, or any of their defenders, it should be noted that the Ajax side that clinched Eredivisie glory under Ten Hag just a fortnight ago had one of the leanest defensive records in Europe; meaning United should be far more resilient under the Dutchman regardless of personnel.
In fact, it feels like Ten Hag’s main issue at Old Trafford will not be improving Manchester United’s defensive record – which is already at an all-time low – but more what he does with the expensive odd man out.
Neither Maguire – an £80million signing from Leicester back in 2020 – nor Varane are likely to be content with playing second fiddle; both were signed to play a leading role at one of Europe’s biggest clubs. It appears destined that one of them will be doing the opposite of that next season, though.
Some might say that they can have few complaints after such a disappointing season – but they will. And all eyes will be on Ten Hag to see how he handles them.