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Van Gaal considering bid for Villa star Ron Vlaar to solve United defensive crisis

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Ron Vlaar could be in contention again for Aston Villa

Ron Vlaar could be in contention again for Aston Villa

Ron Vlaar could be in contention again for Aston Villa

WHEN Louis van Gaal lays out his defence for tomorrow’s Premier League clash at Aston Villa, it won’t be lost on him that Villa centre-back Ron Vlaar has been mentioned as a possible candidate for a January move to Old Trafford.

Van Gaal has named almost 20 different combinations at the heart of his defence as he has tried to contend with the numerous injury setbacks his players have suffered.

With United willing to spend, Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels and Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin are among the names that have been spoken of to improve the team.

Vlaar, however, would represent a significantly cheaper option as he is out of contract at the end of the season, meaning he would be free in summer or sold for a cut-price fee next month.

Admittedly, Villa are nowhere near the bracket of clubs such as Dortmund or Atletico Madrid, yet that is no reason not to consider Vlaar.

form

The triumvirate that United were convinced would have their ‘most available’ season yet - Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, and Jonny Evans - came from Blackburn, Fulham and the United academy respectively. Nemanja Vidic was signed from Spartak Moscow, a famous but faded European club.

United have plenty of form for picking what they see as outstanding talent from average teams.

Van Gaal will not need a scouting report on Vlaar. He knows the player through the Dutch national team, and used him in all seven of the team’s impressive World Cup campaign in 2014.

The defender won plaudits for his performance in the tournament, yet statistics indicate he has failed to carry that form into this season’s Premier League.

Vlaar does not compare favourably to United’s most used centre-backs this season, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo.

The Reds pair have won more 50/50s, completed more passes and made more recoveries - defined by Opta as “where a player wins back the ball when it has gone loose or where the ball has been played directly to him”. The Villa man does have a better tackling success rate, but the fact he is well down comparatively in terms of interceptions suggests Smalling and Rojo are both more comfortable going for the ball when it is not at the attackers’ feet.

 Vlaar is also being outperformed by his Villa team-mates. Paul Lambert’s team went on an unbeaten four game run in the defender’s absence in November, and the manager suggested last week that the form of Ciarán Clark and Jores Okore meant Vlaar’s return to the first team was far from certain.

However, while both players have similar tackle success rates to Vlaar and better recovery rates, the Dutch defender came off the bench in the defeat to West Brom and could be recalled after that defeat. With the quality United have in their strikeforce, a start for Vlaar tomorrow would be a perfect rehearsal to test how well he can still handle some of the best attackers in the league.

Meanwhile, Michael Carrick has praised Antonio Valencia’s athleticism and selflessness as the Ecuadorian continues to impress on the right flank for United.

IMMENSE

Valencia has performed well at full-back in Rafael’s absence and set up Wayne Rooney’s opener against Liverpool with a wonderful piece of skill last weekend. Carrick feels his team-mate is something of an unsung hero with a steely determination to succeed.

“Antonio is a pure athlete,” the midfielder said. “He is immense. It is the work he does that doesn’t get noticed, things like carrying the ball up the pitch for 30 or 40 yards when you have been defending. He takes you up the pitch and defenders just back up because they know about his pace. If he can go down the line, then he is pretty hard to catch. He is a great team player and, when you are playing with him, you certainly appreciate that he is on your team.”

Valencia, who has passed 200 appearances for the club, may be shy off the field but he is certainly expressing himself under Louis van Gaal.

“He is pretty much the full package,” added Carrick. “He is reserved but determined at the same time. He is quiet, he is pleasant and he is polite. He is not somebody who shouts and screams in the changing room but I certainly wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him. He is stubborn and determined. He has got a real desire to win, like everyone at this club.”

 


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