Manchester United’s dismal performance over the weekend must have sent shivers down the spines of most fans. The Red Devils were lethargic, slow, and lost at times. There was a lack of ideas all around the pitch, which will be alarming from a side that just finished third in the previous campaign. And to let in 3 goals against a side that scored the second-lowest goals in the league last season was simply unacceptable for fans.
Victor Lindelof’s horror-show at the heart of the Manchester United defence reignited the recent debate: is the United backline good enough?
Manchester United signing a new centre-back unlikely
A new center back to pair Harry Maguire was thought to be a requirement for the Red Devils, even though it was not high up in the transfer agenda of the Old Trafford hierarchy. However, this defeat and the manner in which the Manchester United backline was ripped open by Crystal Palace has opened up the discussion once again. Fans would love either of Kalidou Koulibaly or Dayot Upamecano to take up the role. Even Gary Neville seemed to suggest that the center back position deserved greater attention than the right wing.
However, chances are that Manchester United will not alter their transfer strategy this summer. This means that Jadon Sancho remains the prime target and the only defensive addition, if any, could see the arrival of Brazilian full-back Alex Telles from Porto. It is not the best scenario for fans, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might have to make do with the players at his disposal, at least until the winter. That forces the Red Devils to look to their squad for a better alternative to Victor Lindelof.
Today, we take a look at the top four players from the current Manchester United squad who Solskjaer could partner with Maguire. With Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo both starting just twice and once respectively last season, both players have not been considered in this list.
#4 Teden Mengi
The 18-year-old rose through the ranks at the United academy and soon had his coaches gushing about his qualities. The Manchester United Under-18 skipper was so impressive that he was promoted to the Under-23 set up last year. He was also called up to the senior team last season and was an unused substitute in the away defeat to Astana in Europa League.
He made his debut for the Manchester United senior team against LASK in the Europa League last month and showed promise during his cameo. This season, he has been promoted to the senior team squad and has been handed the number 43 shirt.
Mengi has all the attributes of a proper center back. He is fast, strong and great in the air. He displays calmness beyond his years in one-on-one situations, and has a wise head on his shoulders. His attitude and commitment have impressed all his coaches and many are tipping him to be a future Manchester United skipper.
"We always had that in the back of our minds, that our Academy will provide players and Teden has definitely impressed me. Teden’s got something special in him. It’s about picking the right moment to give him a chance."
However, Solksjaer also hinted that he would exercise caution with the player.
"It’s different trusting defenders on the big stage, of course it is. You’ve got to make sure he’s ready for it. Defenders, you’ve got to make sure they’re ready because you can’t really know how they’ll react if they make a mistake."
Teden Mengi certainly is ready for the next level, so he could be an option the Manchester United manager could look towards at the moment.
#3 Axel Tuanzebe
Axel Tuanzebe was supposed to hit the next level and push for a first team place last season. His rise from the United academy had been meteoric. And after returning from a successful loan spell with Aston Villa in the 18/19 season, a lot of people were expecting him to relegate Lindelof to the bench in 2019/20. Unfortunately, Tuanzebe had a tough time with injuries and managed to make just 5 appearances all season for Manchester United, none of which were in the league.
The Englishman was pushing for a place in the first team when he picked up a hip injury. That was followed by a Hamstring injury that kept him out until the break of the season due to the Coronavirus. During the break, he required foot surgery to treat an injury and has not yet returned to full fitness. However, there’s no denying that when a 100% fit, Tuanzebe has the ability to oust Lindelof and become the long standing partner to Harry Maguire at the heart of the Manchester United defence.
Tuanzebe was fantastic for Villa in 1v1 situations. He is fast and strong, which makes getting past him quite a task. He embraces the physical aspects of the game and is rarely bullied off the ball. His excellent positioning and sound awareness of the game make him an enticing prospect. He also has a tendency to step out of the defence and is excellent on the ball, qualities that will endear him to Solskjaer.
The Englishman is expected to return from injury by the end of this month. United fans as well as Solskjaer will be desperate to see if Tuanzebe could solve their defensive problems and be the rock at the back that this Manchester United team is crying out for.