Summer 2018. Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho wanted a centre back with experience and leadership skills. A defender which he thought who could lead Manchester United back to glory and carry out his mentality and message out on the pitch.
Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof were signed in his first 2 seasons for a combined fee of nearly 65 million pounds. Both of them were signed with the future in mind. The tomorrow in mind. Bailly and Lindelof were both 22 when they signed. Bailly is the robust, physical beasty centre back and Lindelof was the silky, smooth yet robust centre back.
Yet, Jose Mourinho wanted one more centre back with a mixture of both those qualities and also leadership added to it. Leadership doesn’t necessarily come with experience, but also, rarely comes with inexperience. Bailly and Lindelof were inexperienced. They were not leaders who can be vocal and organise a team defensively yet.
Jose Mourinho read that fantastically and rightly wanted Toby Alderweireld. Alderweireld’s contract was coming to an end but still was a bit expensive. Alderweireld was everything that Mourinho craved for in a defender. Leader. Robust. Silky. And also has the ability to play out from the back.
In a market where Arch Rivals Liverpool spent 75 million pounds on a defender and 67 million pounds on a Goal Keeper, A 45-50 million pounds deal for Toby Alderweireld made all sense. But, it wouldn’t happen because Ed Woodward found a 29 Year Old as a player without ‘Resale’ Value and ‘commercial’ value.
Since the start of the league season without that leading defender, Manchester United have conceded 21 goals in 12 games. They had conceded 28 goals the whole of last season in the league.
Jose Mourinho was vindicated of his decision of wanting a new central defender with leadership skills. He personally had a horror pre season tour of the Americas where, everytime he met the press, he was throwing jibes at the board, which he’s continued upto now. Not the right attitude to show your dissent, especially when you are managing Manchester United. But, you can’t complain about his behaviour too much as well.
So, what should Ed Woodward do now?
He stated via a media release after the window ended that he had 100 million pounds ready to be spent on centre backs but would spend it only on Varane. So, it’s very much in the know now that there’s 100m pounds available. So, who should be Mourinho targeting now in sync with what Woodward wants commercially but would also help the team upgrade itself?
2 defenders come to mind quickly:
Internazionale Milan’s centre back. Young, but vocal. Organiser. Robust and the best central defender in one on one situations. Physically won’t be a trouble for him to set in to the Premier League. One of the top-5 centre backs in modern day football.
Napoli won’t sell their most prized asset quite easily. The same characteristics as what Mourinho wants. A centre back good with his feet, leader, organiser, vocal and robust, Kalidou Koulibaly is any manager’s dream centre back.
What’s next for Manchester United?
Personally, I expect Woodward to get Mourinho a centre back either be in winter or summer. But, for the signing to have any significant part to play, Jose Mourinho has to keep Manchester United in the hunt for a top 4 spot.