6 Transfer Targets Who Could Strengthen Manchester United's Defence

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistDecember 18, 2013

6 Transfer Targets Who Could Strengthen Manchester United's Defence

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    As we steamroll towards the January transfer window, the David Moyes rebuilding program is finally going to leave its dock and set sail for waters which Manchester United have not journeyed upon for many years. 

    The abject failure of the first part of this season has been caused by a cocktail of poor form, injuries and what seems to be a lack of desire from individuals within the current squad.

    As Wayne Rooney's performances have kept United with their heads above water, it is the annually reliable defence that has threatened to drag the team under, drowning in a sea of mediocrity and fear.

    Moyes will surely look at refreshing his defensive options as soon as possible, as the aging trio of Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Patrice Evra show they are no longer the world-class footballers they once were.

    Here we look at six defensive options that Moyes could look towards, assisting him with a late season onslaught for Champions League qualification, and helping him fashion a United team that can compete for the title once again.

Alex Sandro

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    As the pursuit for Leighton Baines threatens to turn into a Wesley Sneijder-like comedy farce, Moyes will need to look at other options for strengthening his full-back positions.

    Brazilian international Alex Sandro has been strongly linked with United over the past few weeks, as an alternative replacement for club vice-captain, Patrice Evra. 

    Sandro signed for Porto for £8 million in 2011, and has impressed greatly since his arrival to European football from Santos

    He would give United a unique balance on the left, mirroring the contribution that Rafael gives to the team on the right. 

    With Inter Milan in hot pursuit of the player, having reportedly had a £12.5 million bid turned down by Porto, Moyes might feel that an aggressive push for the player in January may be necessary to guarantee his signature. 

    At 22 years of age, and coming in at a similar value to Baines, United may feel that Sandro is by far a more suitable long term solution in the rebuilding of their back four. 

Andrea Ranocchia

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    With Inter Milan on a mission to completely overhaul their squad, Italian international defender Andrea Ranocchia could be surplus to requirements at the San Siro.

    It is understood that the player could be tempted with a move to England, and is considering handing in a transfer request to his club.

    With the decline of Vidic and Ferdinand, and the continual use of Phil Jones in midfield, Moyes might see the towering centre-back as the perfect compliment to Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling.

    The 25-year-old would add aerial dominance to United's back line, without compromising technique on the ball.

    With Chelsea and Arsenal both interested in the player, an unlikely bidding war may well commence, for a player who holds full Champions League eligibility this season.   

Alberto Moreno

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    As Alberto Moreno's reputation starts to grow, so does the size of his price tag.

    Sevilla's young Spanish full-back is now rated as one of the hottest properties in Europe, with a long line of suitors queuing up to purchase the player.

    With his Champions League eligibilty being a short-term bonus, the long-term attraction of Moreno is of what he could become. Like Luke Shaw, he is widely regarded as his country's next defensive superstar.

    With previous reports of United preparing a £25 million bid for the player, Moyes will have to move fast to oppose strong interest from Chelsea and Real Madrid

    Moreno could add a dynamic element to United's left hand side that is currently not present. Even at such a large price, the Glazers would see the player as a shrewd investment, as success in United's first team would guarentee a huge jump in his stock value in the immediate future. 

Eliaquim Mangala

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    There is no doubt that Eliaquim Mangala would currently walk straight into the Manchester United first team.

    He is a strong and powerful individual, who would give United the imposing centre-back they will miss when Vidic one day leaves Old Trafford.

    Porto's aggressive defender has been scouted by David Moyes on several occasions, and it appears that the United manager is a huge admirer.

    United have failed to dominate opponents in defence and at set pieces, and Mangala would improve this area greatly. His physique and bombastic style are perfect for the English game. Such a player could also bring the best out of Evans, allowing the Irishman to dictate with the ball at his feet. 

    At only £15 million, Mangala would fall well within the Glazer's financial budget, and add an immediate boost to United's protracted title charge. However, with a growing list of admirers that price is sure to rise. 

    Even though he is cup tied for the Champions League, his long-term value to United could be immense. 

Cristian Zapata

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    AC Milan's Cristian Zapata has indeed pledged his immediate future to the Italian giants, but United's desperation to strengthen could push through a concerted effort to acquire the player before the World Cup. 

    At 27 years of age, the Colombian international can play across the back four and would add experience to the unit, without breaking the bank on a huge transfer fee.

    It was reported that United had sent Phil Neville to scout the player, and determine his suitability for Moyes' rebuilding program. 

    Zapata would also be a cheaper option than Mangala, and his natural pace would improve United's slower core. 

    If Colombia have the strong World Cup finals that many are predicting, it is sure that Zapata would be a part of that success, and his value could rise considerably after the tournament. 

Phil Jagielka

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    As Everton go all out to hold on to Leighton Baines, it is inevitable that there would be great resistance for any move for their England international defender, Phil Jagielka.

    However, as proven with the sale of Marouane Fellaini, the Merseyside club does have a price. 

    Jagielka improved greatly under the tutoring of David Moyes, and the new United manager may feel he is best going forward with his rebuilding by using a player he already knows so well.

    There is no doubt that Jagielka would be a conservative option, and one that would not excite United fans, but he would add great Premier League knowledge to a weakened and declining area of the squad.

    Despite Jagielka's progression over the years, there is always the issue of the inflated costs surrounding English players, and he would not come cheap.

    Whichever players David Moyes eventually turns to, replacing legends of the stature of Vidic, Ferdinand and Evra will be a daunting task.