Inter Milan's Juan Jesus could solve Manchester United's problems in defence
Manchester United’s disappointing start to the Premier League campaign has seen the side post a poor record in defence, conceding nine goals through their first seven matches in the English top flight. With Rio Ferdinand‘s age beginning to show whilst Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans, and Phil are each yet to make a great impact at centre back thus far, the Red Devils could well be in the market for a fresh face to link up with Nemanja Vidic in the heart of the back four. And so, should United be targeting Inter’s Juan Jesus to shore up their defence when the transfer window opens in the New Year?
A product of the Internacional academy, the Brazilian joined the Italian giants in January 2012, emerging as a consistent member of the starting eleven in his first full term with the Nerazzurri last season under the now-departed Andrea Stramaccioni.
Jesus’ rise in the Inter ranks came during a rather troubled spell for the club that saw him amass a meager Performance Score of 331 in 31 appearances, yet under new boss Walter Mazzarri he has flourished and posted a figure of 177 in only seven outings, besting each one of his positional counterparts at Manchester United in this regard.
The 22-year-old currently sits second in tackles in Serie A amongst defenders with 21 at a success rate of 84%, whilst Vidic, Ferdinand, Jones, Smalling, and Evans have managed just 24 between all five of them in Premier League action to date. Furthermore, only the Serbian veteran has been superior in the air to the Milan-based stopper, winning 22 of 29 headed duels (76%) to the Brazil international’s haul of 16 of 22 (73%).
David Moyes’ preferred central-back partnership, Vidic and Ferdinand, have averaged 14 and 10 defensive actions per game respectively. That tops Jesus’ average of eight this term, but an astounding 83% of the duo’s actions have been clearances, with the Old Trafford pair having made a pithy 19 interceptions combined. The Inter man, on the other hand, has made a league-leading 27 interceptions in the Italian top flight, spreading his contributions at the back more equally amongst pre-emptive and last-ditch efforts.
A bonus facet to the Nerazzurri defender’s game is his level of comfort on the ball. Accustomed to playing in a back three having done so under his last two coaches, Juan Jesus has become increasingly proficient in possession. Already in the current campaign, he has completed eight take ons, while also demonstrated excellent vision for a defender with five key passes, four of which were played from inside his own half.
The Brazilian certainly has plenty to offer to United based on his performance this year as part of a defensive unit that has conceded the third-fewest goals in Serie A.
Vidic and Ferdinand’s lack of tackles and interceptions suggest that United’s greatest weakness at the back has come in the inability to break up opposition moves in their formative stages, instead relying on late stage actions to thwart offensive pressure.
The Old Trafford outfit would in turn do well to pursue the 22-year-old as they look to reverse their fortunes on the campaign in defence of their Premier League crown. Inter would likely require of fee in excess of £10 million to release the defender given his age and contract, which expires in June 2016, so the Brazilian wouldn’t necessarily be a cheap option, but has all the tools required to fortify David Moyes’ vulnerable back line.
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