Football Features

Man Utd transfer targets: Understanding Red Devils’ centre-back search

By Will Evans

Published: 14:33, 4 June 2024 | Updated: 13:24, 12 June 2024

Manchester United’s search for a centre-back is under way.

Erik ten Hag’s outfit need to strengthen their rearguard this summer, after conceding a sky-high 17.55 shots per match in 2023/24.

That record — as well as the departure of Raphael Varane — will reportedly see the Red Devils prioritise signing a central defender.

We consider who Man Utd could target when the transfer window opens later this month.

Jarrad Branthwaite

Jarrad Branthwaite enjoyed a breakout campaign with Everton last season, culminating in a first England cap against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Monday night.

His form looks to have attracted the attention of Man Utd, though it may require a bid of £60-70million for the Toffees to consider a sale.

The Red Devils’ cause could be helped by Everton’s current financial predicament, amid suggestions they may need to sell a player in June to avoid breaching the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules (PSR).

Regardless, Branthwaite is surely worthy of a significant outlay, having helped turn Sean Dyche’s team into the fourth-best defensive side in England’s top flight last term (51 goals conceded). Only the top three sides conceded fewer goals than Everton in the Premier League.

The left-footed 21-year-old was a colossal presence in the air, winning 95 aerial duels and making 82 headed clearances.

Marc Guehi

Marc Guehi is another player who could make his mark on the European stage this summer, having won his 10th cap for England in Monday’s aforementioned friendly.

That international recognition is just reward for an impressive season at the heart of Crystal Palace’s back line — and his performances don’t appear to have gone unnoticed by Man Utd.

The 23-year-old has reportedly emerged as an alternative option to Branthwaite, if a fee cannot be agreed for the Everton man.

The Eagles are believed to want £65million for their defensive star, though, so Man Utd will still need to spend big to secure the former Chelsea man.

Jean-Clair Todibo

A more affordable centre-back option may be Jean-Clair Todibo, who is believed to be available for £40million from Nice — a club also owned by Man Utd shareholder Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS Group.

Unlike Branthwaite and Guehi, Todibo operates on the right side of central defence, so would be a natural replacement for the departing Varane.

The France international, 24, is remarkably comfortable on the ball, ranking second in Ligue 1 for passes attempted (2,462) and completed (2,218) — though that figure is influenced by Nice’s possession-heavy style.

There is no questioning his defensive attributes, however, having helped Les Aiglons record a table-topping 17 clean sheets and 29 goals conceded in 2023/24.

Todibo was inside the division’s top 10 players for possession regains in both the defensive (108) and middle (101) thirds of the pitch, and would represent an impressive addition to the Red Devils’ rearguard this summer.