5 center backs Manchester United can target to challenge for the title next season

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Manchester United

Ibrahima Konate of RB Leipzig (Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images)

Manchester United were in the title conversation just a few weeks ago, but poor results against Everton, West Brom and Sheffield United have effectively ended their hopes for this season.

Manchester City are on a run of 17 consecutive wins and are 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League. Pep Guardiola’s men are now odds-on favorites to reclaim the league from Liverpool.

But Manchester United have shown glimpses of their potential through the course of this season – enough to suggest that the right moves in the summer transfer window could make them genuine contenders for the 2021/22 season.

A new center back should be high on the list of summer priorities for Manchester United.

Bruno Fernandes has completely transformed a midfield desperately short of creativity, and also elevated his fellow teammates. Edinson Cavani was treated skeptically when he arrived on a free transfer, but he has shown fans the benefits of having a traditional number 9 up front.

While the likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial are still wasteful, and Mason Greenwood is still maturing, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men have not found scoring goals an issue this season.

The problem is clearly letting them in at the other end. Harry Maguire has endured the brunt of the criticism this season, but the former Leicester man has put in some tremendous performances alongside Eric Bailly as well.

But with Bailly again suffering an injury-ridden season, Victor Lindelof has been United’s go-to man in the Premier League. The Swede is a decent defender with good ball skills, but he lacks the strength and aerial prowess the Premier League demands.

We take a look at 5 options Manchester United can explore in the summer as a potential alternative:

#5 Ibrahima Konate (RB Leipzig)

One of several success stories of Leipzig’s extraordinary scouting department, Ibrahima Konate has only narrowly been overshadowed by national and club teammate Dayot Upamecano in recent years.

The 21-year-old arrived in Germany soon after Upamecano on a free transfer from Sochaux. Konate is rapid for a center back and strong enough to withstand the pressures of top flight English football. At 6’4″, aerial duels should be no problem for him.

Highly rated by coaches, fans and pundits, the Frenchman seems at first glance to be the perfect signing for United. But there are two major reasons why he’s not further up this list.

For one, he’s been highly injury prone during his time at Leipzig. In fact, since his signing in 2017, he has started just 20 Bundesliga games alongside Upamecano, and if Konate is going to spend long periods on the sidelines, United hardly need another Eric Bailly in their ranks.

The other reason is that with Upamecano having confirmed his move to Bayern, teams will find it extremely difficult to prise Konate from Leipzig in the summer. United could go back for him next winter, but they also need someone sooner than that.

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