Manchester United currently have the best defensive record in the Premier League.
However, the signs were clear for all to see in recent games that Jose Mourinho needs reinforcement in his back four if he is to truly challenge Manchester City next season.
Manchester United’s back four for their last two away defeats at Tottenham and Newcastle featured Antonio Valencia, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Ashley Young, all four signed by Sir Alex Ferguson who departed the club nearly five years ago.
Although all four have title-winning experience it has been clear for some time that the club need to find a suitable partner for Eric Bailly with both Smalling, Jones, Marcos Rojo and Victor Lindelof all failing to live up to the demands of both Manchester United and Jose Mourinho.
According to The Manchester Evening News, the club already have their eye on a potential partner for the Ivory Coast international with Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld a possible target given the Belgian’s contract situation at Spurs.
The 28-year-old has 18 months left on his contract although the club holds a one-year extension on top of that.
The player also has a £25 million release clause that can only be activated in the summer of 2019, and no later than 14 days before the end of the transfer window, ensuring Mauricio Pochettino has time to find a suitable replacement should the Belgian depart.
The Spurs boss has travelled to Turin for Tuesday’s crucial Champions League round of 16 clash with Juventus without his star defender who was also omitted for the North London Derby win over Arsenal on Saturday.
This is not together all that surprising given the player played in the FA Cup replay win over Newport County last week after a long injury lay off of three months and Pochettino has suggested he is easing player back gently.
“He is 28 and it was a massive injury that we need to care about.
“Because we could not put at risk his career. We designed a plan to try to provide him with the best tools to recover as soon as possible and be stronger than before.
“In that period that he started to work with the team, under our judgement, he needs to build his fitness slowly. He needs to work hard. To play this type of game you need to be 200 per cent.”
However, the player has declared himself fit and ready to play.
Although Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has suggested the midfield area is where his focus will be this summer he has also suggested in the past that if a top player should become available then he is always interested.
He backed up those words by snapping up Alexis Sanchez in January as the player made the move from London to Manchester.
Should former Southampton loanee Alderweireld make any signs that he too would be interested in a similar move, the Manchester United fans already dreaming of a Bailly-Alderweireld partnership next season and will hope Mourinho can pull it off.
However, should the player want out of Tottenham, expect a long queue for the Belgian’s signature.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena