Can Matthijs de Ligt become Manchester United's new defensive pillar?
- Matthijs de Ligt is one of the best centre-backs in world football at the moment.
Interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær has managed to bring back the feel-good factor at Old Trafford following the dark days of Jose Mourinho and Solskjær‘s Manchester United has done so in fine style by playing some fluid and high octane football.
With three wins on the spin, Paul Pogba reinstated and firing, there is a growing sense of optimism that a top-four spot might still be salvageable.
Despite the dominant displays and upbeat mood around Old Trafford, it would be foolish to pretend that there aren't areas still in need of improvement.
Eric Bailly’s reckless scissor challenge on Ryan Fraser in the closing stages of United’s win over Bournemouth at Old Trafford again put the spotlight on United’s defensive frailties and the need for defensive reinforcements.
Mourinho was infuriated when he missed a succession of defensive targets in the summer transfer window and insisted it would be "really hard" for United to finish in the top-four.
"You can't three quarters build a house and then stop, you’ve got to finish it. That back four is not good enough to win the Premier League title." Gary Neville said of United's poor defense.
Neville assertion wasn't wrong. United have conceded 32 goals in 20 Premier League games played so far this season - a stat which makes them the seventh worst team defensively.
Sorting out United's defensive issues should be Solskjær’s priority in the January window as stats show how costly those lapses at the back could prove to be in a tight race.
With doubts over Eric Bailly and Marcus Rojo’s long-term future, there is an acceptance among United’s hierarchy that top target Matthijs de Ligt could be the answer to their defensive woes.
A natural leader, De Ligt became Ajax captain at a very young age of 18. The young centre-back possesses a number of attributes that would make him an attractive proposition for Manchester United.
Tall, incredibly athletic and quick, he covers space exceptionally well and is an outstanding reader of the game. He also has a good range of passing but keeps it simple.
For the last two seasons, the 19-year-old has been among the most impressive and consistent young centre-backs in world football.
The question is when does he take the next step in his career and move to a bigger club. Ajax has signaled that they will listen to offers at the end of the season. But with money to spend and competition heating up for his signature, the bids could come before then. United would be wise to move quickly to beat rival clubs to his signature.