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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag is reportedly eyeing at least one new centre-back in the next stage of his rebuild at Old Trafford, with at least six targets on the Dutchman’s shortlist. But whether he realises his transfer hopes in January is set to depend on the status of a £137million duo.
Ten Hag’s second season as United boss has been marred by a raft of availability problems, with at least 17 first-team stars missing at some point through injury, illness or off-field issues.
His squad has particularly been hit in defence. Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Lisandro Martinez and Luke Shaw all started the campaign in a first-choice backline but are currently absent.
Meanwhile, Tyrell Malacia and Sergio Reguilon are also sidelined, leaving Ten Hag with no fit left-backs for most of the season.
Raphael Varane returned against Sheffield United but has also missed numerous games due to his persistent injury woes.
It has meant Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans have formed an unlikely centre-back partnership in recent weeks, with Victor Lindelof filling in at left-back.
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Ten Hag is reportedly keen on upgrading his defensive ranks by focusing the next chunk of his transfer kitty on a new central defender.
Edmond Tapsoba, Jean-Clair Todibo and Marc Guehi were all linked during the summer transfer window before Maguire’s £30m switch to West Ham United collapsed.
Ahead of January, Jarrad Branthwaite, Antonio Silva and Inacio Martinez are also said to be on Ten Hag’s radar.
But according to Fabrizio Romano, the Red Devils manager is only likely to bolster his defence this winter if two factors force him to do so.
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Romano claims that United’s pursuit of a centre-back depends on how Martinez’s fitness is shaping up after the Argentine underwent two foot surgeries this year.
Initially injured in April, Martinez returned at the start of pre-season but wasn’t at his best before agreeing to go under the knife for a second time earlier this month.
The report adds that Maguire’s future will also once again play a part in United’s prospects of new blood in the backline.
Maguire has enjoyed a resurgence in recent weeks but could look to leave in January if he remains behind Lindelof in the pecking order once Ten Hag has a left-back at his disposal.
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