Man United targeting new full-backs as Jose Mourinho prepares defensive overhaul
Jose Mourinho wants to sign a new left-back and right-back over the next two transfer windows as the Manchester United manager prepares for an overhaul of the full-back positions.
Mourinho is unhappy with his options at full-back and is keen to address United’s shortcomings there next year.
Left-back has been a particular headache for Mourinho since he took charge at Old Trafford in May last year, despite having an array of players who can play in the position.
Mourinho’s misgivings over Luke Shaw, Daley Blind and Matteo Darmian have led to the Portuguese making Ashley Young, a 32-year-old winger by trade, his first choice left-back. Marcos Rojo, who has just returned from a seven-month absence with a ruptured cruciate, can also operate in the position but Mourinho has preferred to use the Argentina defender at centre-half.
Mourinho has been highly critical of Shaw, who has been a peripheral figure under the former Chelsea manager, and questioned the England defender’s commitment, focus, ambition and football brain.
Darmian, a right-back primarily, and Blind have also struggled to win Mourinho’s trust and it is understood the United manager - whose side face Watford at Vicarage Road tomorrow night - is willing to listen to offers for all three players, even if it is likely he will have to offload them in stages.
Blind and Darmian were particularly poor in the 1-0 Champions League defeat away to Basel last week and both players, as well as Shaw - an unused substitute in Switzerland - were dropped from United’s 18-man squad to face Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday.
Mourinho likes Young but the England international turns 33 next July and is not a long-term option at left back. Young is out of contract next summer but there is an option to extend his deal by a further 12 months that United will invoke and which, at the very least, will bolster the player’s transfer value. The same applies to Blind, while the option on Shaw is already thought to have been triggered.
Mourinho has had a lot more success at right-back with Antonio Valencia, one of his most trusted lieutenants and whom he has made captain in the absence of Michael Carrick. But there are concerns that Valencia’s heavy workload and a persistent knee problem are starting to take their toll on the Ecuadorian who, like Young, will be 33 next summer and that quality competition is now required in the position.
Darmian is not considered a solution and, although Mourinho likes youngster Axel Tuanzebe, he has played just 90 minutes in the League Cup for United this season. Timothy Fosu-Mensah is currently on loan at Crystal Palace, where he has made seven league appearances, but the 19-year-old is considered very raw and it remains to be seen if he is given an extended run-out when he returns to Old Trafford.
Danny Rose, of Tottenham, Barcelona’s Jordi Alba, and Ricardo Rodriguez, the AC Milan defender, and Celtic’s Kieran Tierney are among the left-backs United have been linked with, along with Roma right-back Alessandro Florenzi.