This is the signing that José Mourinho has been waiting for. Having spent last season searching for a competent partner for defensive titan Eric Bailly, he has finally found one in the transfer market.
This doesn’t speak too highly of the other centre-backs at United, and one can be sure Mourinho will expect more from Lindelöf, but are the men he’s replacing that bad? After all at some point they were signed by United too. Where do they rank among other centre-backs signed by the Red Devils?
Squawka has had a look and ranked all 8 centre-backs signed by Manchester United since this century. Where do the current crop fall? Read on and find out!
8. Gerard Piqué
Signed in: 2004
Transfer fee: free
Games played: 23
Trophies won: 2007 Community Shield, 2007/08 Premier League, 2007/08 UEFA Champions League
Hard as it is to imagine now, there was a period where people wondered if Gerard Piqué was any good. Poached from Barcelona by United, he developed in the youth team and, after a loan spell at Zaragoza, broke into the first-team picture as back-up to Ferdinand and Vidic. He scored twice in the Champions League run, but looked weak and easily bullied on the domestic front (remember Anelka at Bolton?) Sir Alex Ferguson had no idea what was coming when he sold him back to the Blaugrana for just £5m.
7. Marcos Rojo
Signed in: 2014
Transfer fee: £16m
Games played: 95
Trophies won: 2015/16 FA Cup, 2016 Community Shield, 2016/17 EFL Cup, 2016/17 UEFA Europa League
Signed off the back of an impressive 2014 FIFA World Cup, Rojo was intended to be part of Louis van Gaal’s back three. But when the Dutch coach abandoned the system, Rojo was shunted into a left-back position that has never really suited him. Looked an utter misfit until José Mourinho arrived and moved him permanently to centre-back, where he thrived alongside anyone who was fit – until he tragically injured his cruciate ligaments late in the season.
6. Laurent Blanc
Signed in: 2001
Transfer fee: free
Games played: 75
Trophies won: 2002/03 Premier League
Signed at the end of United’s title threepeat to add some nous and experience as Sir Alex Ferguson sought a second Champions League win, the Frenchman instead struggled with the pace of the Premier League. However his true value came in his second season at Old Trafford where he excellently mentored the newly arrived Rio Ferdinand, helping the side winning the Premier League then leaving.
5. Phil Jones
Signed in: 2011
Transfer fee: £16.5m
Games played: 168
Trophies won: Community Shield (2), 2012/13 Premier League, 2015/16 FA Cup, 2016/17 UEFA Europa League
Signed to bolster the United defence for the better part of a decade, Jones was England’s bright future at the heart of defence. Sort of like John Stones if John Stones was a moving brick wall as well. Jones’ initial displays were some of the most exhilarating things United saw in the latter days of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign, but once the great manager tempered Jones’ cavalier attitude much of his impact went with him. Worse still, he began getting injured. Is now 25 but has none of the assurance a 25 year-old centre-back should have, mostly because he’s never truly developed.
Signed in: 2010
Transfer fee: £7m
Games played: 243
Trophies won: Community Shield (3), Premier League (2), 2015/16 FA Cup, 2016/17 EFL Cup, 2016/17 UEFA Europa League
It sums up Chris Smalling’s Manchester United career that he ended his best season at the club by some distance getting sent off in the showpiece final. United won despite Smalling’s red, which also sums up his career. He’s contributed to many successes, but individually has been a letdown. A man mountain who rarely made use of his impressive stature to dominate opponents (everyone remembers him getting sonned by Christian Benteke) he’s only truly looked dominant in Louis van Gaal’s safety-first system.
3. Eric Bailly
Signed in: 2016
Transfer fee: £30m
Games played: 38
Trophies won: 2016 Community Shield, 2016/17 EFL Cup, 2016/17 UEFA Europa League
If there’s a type of opponent Eric Bailly cannot dominate, then he hasn’t come across him yet. A phenomenal defender who took to the Premier League like a duck to water, full of aggressive athleticism and gloriously refined technique. He can stop opponents on the ground and in the air. With a better partner (hello Victor Lindelöf) there’s no telling what glories he can guide United to.
2. Nemanja Vidic
Signed in: 2006
Transfer fee: £7m
Games played: 300
Trophies won: League Cup (3), Premier League (5), Community Shield (5), 2007/08 UEFA Champions League, 2008 FIFA Club World Cup
Initially looked like a bust, but turned out to be the hardest defender United have had since Jaap Stam. Vidic was a colossus who could brutalise everyone in the air. Had a weakness to quick skill on the deck (as Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Leo Messi repeatedly demonstrated in 2009 and 2011) but no one could deny his quality, nor the impact he had on United’s defence. An impossibly powerful defender and a quietly inspirational captain, Vidic almost had it all.
1. Rio Ferdinand
Signed in: 2002
Transfer fee: £29.1m
Games played: 455
Trophies won: Premier League (6), Community Shield (6), League Cup (3), 2007/08 UEFA Champions League, 2008 FIFA Club World Cup
Rio Ferdinand had it all. Signed from Leeds for a then-record £29.1m, he paid that fee back and then some with his displays in the red shirt. Over a decade of dominance and countless trophies, Rio was the definitive winner and the key player in bringing the winning mentality of the brutal Roy Keane era across to the more friendly but equally title-hungry years of Roonaldo & co.
Rio could defend on the deck and in the air against any opponent (except Jan Venegoor of Hesselink, for some reason, maybe name envy). He often looked calm and assured but could make decisive last-ditch interventions as well as anyone. Comfortable in a low or high-line, he was also brilliant with the ball and started countless United attacks bringing it out from the back.
Unquestionably the best defender in the Premier League era, for any club, not just United.