Writing in his column for BBC Team of the Week, football analyst Garth Crooks has highlighted just what Manchester United need to do in order to challenge for the top four – buy a ‘Virgil van Dijk-type figure’ to partner Harry Maguire in the centre of defence.
Analysing the weekend’s football, Crooks gave a special nod to Maguire for his ‘pivotal‘ performance at the back which eventually allowed United to stroll past Watford 3-0 at Old Trafford. Goals from Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood capped off an all-round brilliant afternoon for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side who are currently keeping pace with the top four – sitting just three points behind rivals Chelsea. However, writing in his column, Crooks has insisted that United cannot be taken seriously as a top-four team unless they sign a ‘Virgil van Dijk-type figure’ to partner Maguire at the back.
The Dutchman, who has played a colossal role in keeping Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table, beats Maguire in most defensive aspects – making more clearances per game (4.7) whilst completing 88.8% of his passes, as per WhoScored.com. However, the Englishman has had to make a higher number of successful tackles (1.2) and interceptions (1.9) – potentially highlighting how a figure similar to Van Dijk could theoretically benefit United.
“Against Watford he wasn’t exactly the hero, but he played a pivotal role in securing a clean sheet for the Reds,” explained Crooks.
“Two matches, two wins, two clean sheets and six points suggest United are building from the back. I still think they need another top-class defender to play alongside Maguire if they intend to be taken seriously as a top-four team.
“With an in-form Martial – and Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford waiting to return – United have the firepower. What they need is a Virgil van Dijk-type figure alongside Maguire in defence.”
Indeed, judging by the stats, Crooks may have a point – with the Red Devils having been linked with signing Napoli stalwart Kalidou Koulibaly in the past (Fabio Santini via Area Napoli). However, whether or not he is the Van Dijk figure United need remains to be seen.
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