Manchester United’s Next Number 5

Varane is a top-level footballer

Manchester United have released their squad numbers for the new campaign and the number 5 shirt is conspicuous by its absence. Last season it was worn by Marcos Rojo but he has abdicated that number for his preferred number 16 jersey, which he wears for Argentina.

But the reason for this shift could be twofold and has left many to consider that Manchester United might make a big defensive purchase in January.

The Guardian reported yesterday that those on high at Manchester United had vetoed some of Mourinho’s desired transfer targets this summer because they stunk of short-termism. In a fascinating expose the report suggested that:

Manchester United veto José Mourinho’s transfer wishlist
• Manager’s short-term fixes rejected by Ed Woodward

To Mourinho’s intense irritation, United’s conclusion was that in most cases he had targeted defenders who were no better than those they already had and who, in today’s inflated market, could conceivably have cost upwards of £70m without vastly improving the team.

There was also a mention of the fact that Manchester United would have been prepared to splash the cash on a world class centre back of the right age – a player who could flourish for a decade at Old Trafford. Raphael Varane was of interest to the club but couldn’t be prised from the clutches of Real Madrid.

And perhaps there is a dearth of really top quality young centre backs in world football right now. Toby Alderweireld and Jerome Boateng might have improved the team in the short-term but they would have both cost a fortune to employ and would hardly represent long-term investments. And despite the popularity of Harry Maguire, the price being mooted for a talented but somewhat pedestrian centre back was simply ridiculous. He’s certainly no Rio Ferdinand and Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk is a far more complete player at 75m GBP.

Eric Bailly is Manchester United’s best centre back. He’s an out and out defender who ideally needs a ballplayer next to him. Over the next three months we shall see if either of Victor Lindelof or Phil Jones can step up to the required level. Because, despite Mourinho’s penchant for the athletic yet clumsy Chris Smalling, Lindelof and Jones certainly appear to be the most likely to be able to step into that role, from the current squad.

But don’t be at all surprised if Manchester United sign a new number 5 in January.

Manchester United squad numbers 2018/19

1 David de Gea

2 Victor Lindelof

3 Eric Bailly

4 Phil Jones

6 Paul Pogba

7 Alexis Sanchez

8 Juan Mata

9 Romelu Lukaku

10 Marcus Rashford

11 Anthony Martial

12 Chris Smalling

13 Lee Grant

14 Jesse Lingard

15 Andreas Pereira

16 Marcos Rojo

17 Fred

18 Ashley Young

20 Diogo Dalot

21 Ander Herrera

22 Sergio Romero

23 Luke Shaw

24 Timothy Fosu-Mensah

25 Antonio Valencia

27 Marouane Fellaini

31 Nemanja Matić

36 Matteo Darmian

38 Axel Tuanzebe

39 Scott McTominay

40 Joel Pereira (on loan)

44 Tahith Chong