Could De Ligt be the solution to United's defensive miseries?




It is no secret that Manchester United have been crying out for a commanding centre back. It’s coming up to five years since the departures of Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, and United still haven’t found sufficient replacements for either of the two. Of course, it’s not easy to replace arguably one of the greatest centre back partnerships in Premier League history, but it should not take this long. Not at a club of Manchester United’s stature. But perhaps this summer, finally, this will change.

19-year-old Matthijs De Ligt has been on the radars of European footballing giants for a few years now, but this season, the Dutch international has cemented himself as one of the world’s finest defenders, warranting an imminent big-money move. 

De Ligt was part of the 2017 Europa League final when United faced Ajax. Back then, he was a promising 17-year-old that was already anchoring Ajax’s defence alongside Davinson Sanchez. Today, two years later, when you look at De Ligt, it seems like it’s been at least five years. 

With maturity and wisdom beyond his years, he captained a young Ajax side to a domestic double and a Champions League semi-final this season. Still in his teens, De Ligt has morphed into a vocal leader on and off the pitch, unsurprisingly attracting the attention of the biggest clubs, United included. 

With the rumor mill in full swing, it seemed almost certain that De Ligt would follow his Ajax teammate (Frenkie De Jong) to Barcelona when the summer transfer window opened. But it has now been two weeks, and all of a sudden Manchester United have entered the conversation. In the morning of May 25, a reliable Catalan journalist (RAC 1), Gerard Romero, reported that De Ligt is very close to Manchester United, with an enticing offer currently on the table for the young Dutchman. 

Now, there are only a few Twitter journalists that you can really trust when it comes to transfer rumors, but according to the football Twitter faithful, Romero is one of them. It is also worth noting that Ajax are employing a United legend in Edwin Van Der Sar as their CEO, making this rumor that bit more credible. 

And while this is still merely a rumor, and no official football news outlets have reported anything concrete, United fans moods around the world have improved dramatically. Having already been resigned to another season of either Chris Smalling or Phil Jones alongside Victor Lindelof — there is now hope that perhaps United’s Swedish standout will get a worthy partner for next season. 

The potential signing of De Ligt would bring something that United have desperately been lacking: A winner's mentality inside the dressing room, and a player who is not afraid to be a leader in between the lines. De Ligt is a physically imposing, composed, and vocal centre back who is not shy to distribute the ball out from the back, and already has more than enough experience of football at the highest level — and with so much more room to grow. 

From the growth and durability which Lindelof has shown this past season, United could finally end up with a very solid centre back partnership come August. And with Shaw having solidified himself as a reliable left-back, United may suddenly find themselves only one piece away (a right-back) from having a formidable and young back line.

UPDATE:

As of Sunday morning, May 26, Sky Sports News sources have reported that Manchester United have denied their interest in the Dutch defender. 

This now leaves a huge question marks in regards to who else may be a potential target for United right now, with names like Kalidou Koulibaly, Harry Maguire and long-term target Toby Alderwiereld being the most popular links of late, or if there even is any intention to add a centre back to the squad to begin with.

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