Manchester United have been urged to sign a Sergio Ramos-type centre-back in January, as Erik ten Hag has been warned that his side are “absolutely all over the place” by Arsenal icon Paul Merson. The Red Devils have lost four of their last five games and sit 13th in the Premier League after a dismal start to the season.
United have shipped 10 goals in five league games, with only Burnley and Wolves having a worse defensive record. They also shipped four in their Champions League defeat away to Bayern Munich on Wednesday. Ten Hag has been handed several injury blows to his backline, with Luke Shaw and Aaron Wan-Bissaka out for over a month at least, while Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez have also spent time on the sidelines.
Merson has pointed out an issue within United’s defence that has not come from injuries, but instead the type of centre-backs that Ten Hag calls upon. Martinez, Varane, Victor Lindelof, Harry Maguire and Jonny Evans have all seen gametime already this season, but the ex-Arsenal midfielder believes that they are all of the same mould and another transfer is necessary.
“Manchester United are absolutely all over the place,” Merson wrote for Sportskeeda. “You can’t concede four goals away from home in a big European game and expect to get anything out of it, they need to find ways to keep things tight at the back.
“Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof are all good defenders, but they aren’t leading central defenders. I don’t mean this badly, but they are No. 2 defenders and need someone more experienced alongside them – as we saw with Varane when he had Sergio Ramos next to him at Real Madrid.”
Ramos and Varane proved to be an exceptionally strong partnership together in Spain, having won multiple Champions League titles together before the Frenchman left for United and Ramos joined Paris Saint-Germain and then Sevilla this summer.
United did attempt to sign a centre-back when the transfer window was open, but once Maguire’s proposed move to West Ham collapsed it did not appear that another addition to the backline was likely as the club navigated tricky Financial Fair Play concerns while also being in the midst of a takeover saga.
Benjamin Pavard was linked with a potential transfer to United, but shortly after Maguire opted to stay he then decided to leave Bayern Munich for Inter Milan.
Another target in Axel Disasi was swooped upon by Chelsea while Jean-Clair Todibo remained at Ligue 1 side Nice – but Merson believes that United should be in the market for another centre-back in January to compliment their current crop.