Football Features

Man Utd CB transfer targets – sign Van Nistelrooy’s ex-pupil or ‘the Butcher’s’ perfect partner?

By Squawka News

Published: 18:02, 21 February 2024

We’ve found the perfect signings to launch the new era at Manchester United.

According to Standard Sport, Sir Jim Ratcliffe has highlighted four areas that need investment: centre-back, right-back, No.8 and centre-forward, also identifying Michael Olise as a marquee target.

So, we built statistical profiles to identify Dream, Realistic and Wildcard options for a summer transfer shortlist and a Squawka Suggestion based on stats.

As follows are the centre-back transfer options Man Utd should consider:

Lisandro Martínez is the clear first choice at the heart of the defence. The Butcher needs a partner that complements him. Raphaël Varane does this to an extent, but doubt constantly surrounds his future and fitness. So, we used his strengths and Martínez’s weaknesses to create our search.

Jarrad Branthwaite: Man Utd’s dream transfer option?

The dream signing is Jarrad Branthwaite. The Everton academy graduate is aggressive, two-footed and a monster in both ground and aerial duels. That last quality moved him ahead of Jean-Clair Todibo on our shortlist.

Branthwaite’s acquisition would follow a trend that picked up when Erik ten Hag took over, having spent time in the Dutch top division (a la Martínez and first-choice goalkeeper André Onana). The native of Carlisle enjoyed a season on loan at PSV Eindhoven, where he made 40 appearances in all competitions, and even scored four goals.

“It was a brilliant experience and I look back now on it probably being one of the best decisions I have ever made,” Branthwaite said in a Times interview.

“Every team in that league looks to play from the back, whereas in the Premier League teams can play from the back but they can also switch it up and play more direct and run in behind.

“At PSV, we had a lot of the ball and it was about being switched on in case we lost possession so that we don’t get caught on the counterattack. I like to be on the ball as much as I can anyway. In my younger years I was a midfielder and that has helped me a lot. I moved back to centre back towards the end of my youth days at Carlisle.”

Ruud van Nistelrooy, the former Manchester United and Netherlands striker, was his manager and offered tips on what forwards don’t want their markers to do.

“He would speak to me about my body shape when defending and the importance of being side on, so that I am always ready to run back or be ready to press forward,” Branthwaite recalled.

“He said if you don’t have the right body shape, you will get done because the Premier League is much faster. If they play it in behind and you are not side on, the striker will already be gone.”

What other centre-backs could Man Utd sign?

Tosin Adarabioyo is the realistic option. The Fulham centre-back is out of contract in the summer so could even be signed alongside our wildcard pick, Joseph Okumu. Everyone’s favourite football manager, Will Still, called the Kenyan defender one of Stade Reims’ best signings. As someone who is genuinely elite at both winning the ball in his team’s defensive third (second-most among Ligue 1 CBs this season) and pinging it into the attacking third (most long-range passes of any Ligue CB this season), you can see why we think he could also be one of United’s.

In the January window, the Squawka pick was Joachim Andersen, whose long-range passing would be worth the transfer fee alone. But now we’re suggesting Ousmane Diomandé for the summer. The Ivorian is rarely beaten on the ground and even less often in the air. At Sporting CP, he has formed a brilliant understanding with Gonçalo Inácio, a similar player to Martínez, so he seems like the perfect fit.