An African van Dijk?
While Liverpool’s title challenge has been built on a solid defensive bedrock, and upon a backline constructed around £75 million man Virgil van Dijk, Manchester United’s defence continues to be an area of concern.
They were exposed again in a midweek defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer surely needs to dip into the transfer market in the summer in order to bolster the heart of his defence.
Here are five African players who could solve United’s defensive problems, but could any of this quintet become the Red Devils’ African van Dijk?
We couldn’t really assess potential African solutions for United’s defence without considering Bailly, who’s already on the club’s books.
Admittedly, he’s been in a flunk for the last two seasons, and doesn’t appear to have the faith of Solskjaer, but unlike the other players on this list, he has actually demonstrated that he can do it in the Premier League.
Injuries have affected his United career, but if he can rediscover his fitness—and a measure of form—then he could yet again rediscover the form of his first season in Manchester, although with Real Madrid linked to his signature, the Red Devils may be tempted to cash in.
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Koulibaly has been regularly tipped for a move to United, but despite incessant transfer rumours in recent windows, he remains at Napoli.
However, the Red Devils would be wise to re-open his dossier this summer in order to try and secure this pricey—but effective—solution to their backline.
World Cup winner Marco Materazzi, for one, recently named Koulibaly among the best three centre-backs in the game, and the Senegal international’s recent decision to change his agent may signal a desire for a change of scene.
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The Morocco centre-back was linked with United as recently as the January transfer window, so he clearly has some admirers at Old Trafford and has been considered by the club as a potential defensive solution.
However, his age, and his decision to snub United for Al-Duhail of Qatar in January may well count against him if he desires to return to the big time this summer.
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At 5’10, Dakonam doesn’t have the commanding presence of van Dijk, but he’d be a different kind of asset to United’s defence.
A reported fee of £31 million could represent a bargain for the 27-year-old, whose time playing as a full-back earlier in his career has led to him being proactive in possession and comfortable with the ball at his feet.
Passing is a strength, while Djene also reads the game well.
- Aitor Alcalde
Like Djene, Mandi is another defender who largely featured as a full-back earlier in his career, before now being shunted into the heart of the defence.
The Algeria international has shone at Real Betis in recent months, prompting rumours of a move to Atletico Madrid, and considering Diego Simeone’s defensive standards with the Rojiblancos, that can be seen as massive testament to his qualities at the back.
Mandi’s ease in possession has also prompted rumours of a move to Manchester City, where Pep Guardiola is reportedly considering meeting the defender’s €30 million release clause as he looks for fresh blood to replace Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi.