Erik ten Hag refused to confirm whether Raphael Varane and Jonny Evans have a future at Manchester United, while reports claim their replacement could come by way of a cut-price transfer with Everton.
Varane, 30, and Evans, 36, form part of a centre-back corps that has posed more questions than answers this season. Lisandro Martinez is undoubtedly Ten Hag’s finest centre-half, though the unlucky Argentine is injured once again.
Martinez has been ruled out for up to eight weeks after suffering a knee injury in the 3-0 victory over West Ham last weekend. That came after Martinez missed the bulk of the first half of the season after undergoing foot surgery.
Elsewhere, Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof complete Ten Hag’s options at the heart of defence, though neither are truly top tier defenders.
Evans signed a one-year deal with Man Utd last summer after impressing while on trial in pre-season. Varane is also out of contract at season’s end given Man Utd have elected against activating the 12-month option in his deal.
Their reasoning stemmed from the fact activating the option would keep Varane on his lofty £340,000-a-week wages.
Few would argue Varane’s displays in England warrant such a colossal salary and Man Utd have seemingly adopted that view too.
There has been speculation Man Utd will attempt to negotiate a new deal with Varane on vastly reduced terms.
That’s the approach they took with David de Gea last year, though the end result in that particular case saw the goalkeeper walk away as a free agent.
Now, when asked about Varane and Evans, manager Ten Hag refused to confirm they have futures at the club beyond the summer.
“We haven’t made the decision yet,” replied Ten Hag.
Ratcliffe-approved Branthwaite signing takes shape
If one or both players do depart, a replacement will be required.
To that end, there’s growing speculation the player Man Utd will turn to is Everton’s Jarrad Branthwaite.
According to the i paper, Sir Jim Ratcliffe reportedly wants a more data-driven approach adopted with regards to new recruits. Branthwaite – along with Crystal Palace’s Michael Olise – fit the new criteria.
Everton slapped a whopping £100m price tag on Branthwaite to help ward off budding interest in January. In truth, very few top flight clubs had cash to splash in the winter window anyway.
However, Branthwaite is widely regarded as a future England international and the 21-year-old has arguably been Everton’s best player this season.
The Toffees have kept eight clean sheets in the league this term, a figure that ties them with Arsenal and Liverpool for joint-first.
Everton have also conceded just 30 goals. Only Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal – who occupy the top three spots – have shipped fewer.
TEAMtalk exclusively revealed Man Utd were sizing up a summer move for Branthwaite back in mid-January. Football Insider subsequently reported it’s the Red Devils who front the queue at present.
Furthermore, FI later claimed Branthwaite could be sold on the cheap if Everton suffer relegation. Despite their defensive heroics, the club sit 18th thanks in large part to their crippling 10-point deduction.
If Man Utd do cut ties with Varane and Evans, their replacement could come by way of Goodison Park.