Manchester United’s search for a centre-half continues to rumble on this summer, with Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti now the latest player to be linked with the club.
Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo have reported United’s interest in the World Cup winner, with the La Liga club interested in Victor Lindelöf the other way.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær would certainly not want to lose Lindelöf, especially as he was United’s best centre-half last season, though the need to add a new face to a backline that last year conceded 54 goals is evident.
The Norwegian does not appear to be satisfied with any of his other current options in the centre of defence. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones signed new contracts last season but haven’t made the desired impact, Eric Bailly has shown how good he can be but has been very unfortunate with injuries and Marcos Rojo could be surplus to requirements.
Axel Tuanzebe has returned from his loan at Aston Villa last season where his impressive performances helped the club gain promotion to the Premier League, therefore a good pre-season for the youngster could put him in contention. The problem for United’s backline though is leadership and organisation, something Solskjær is looking to solve with the acquisition of a commanding centre-half.
Recently United have seen their efforts to sign Ajax captain Matthijs De Ligt rebuffed as it has been widely reported Juventus are on the verge of completing a deal for the Dutch international. Interest in Harry Maguire also seems to have cooled off due to the supposed £90million price-tag Leicester have put on him, leading United to explore other options.
Umtiti was a key part of the France team that won the World Cup in Russia last year, partnering Raphael Varane in the centre of a sturdy backline for ‘Les Bleus’, also scoring the winner in a 1-0 defeat of Belgium in the semi-final.
The 25-year-old signed for Barcelona in 2016 for €25million after impressive performances for French club Lyon, establishing himself in the starting XI alongside Gerard Piqué in his first season. After another successful spell with the club in 2017-2018, Umtiti signed an improved five-year contract with Barcelona, including a release clause set at €500million to ward off any potential suitors, showing just how highly-rated the Frenchman is at the Nou Camp.
Last season, however, Umtiti struggled with injury and has lost his regular starting place to fellow countryman Clement Lenglet, leading to him playing just 14 games in all competitions for the Catalan side. Recent rumours have suggested Neymar is keen on a return to his former club this summer, though if Barcelona were to go for him, they would have to offload some of their big earners to free up funds, especially with an already sizeable wage bill in place.
Phillipe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembélé are more likely to be sold than Umtiti if Barcelona do wish to free up funds, but stranger things have happened in football and the defender remains an elite player, the likes of which United are certainly lacking in their backline.
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