Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Ten Hag urged to sign ‘unreal’ Barcelona star who’ll help Man Utd mirror Liverpool, Man City

Barcelona stars Raphinha and Ronald Araujo

Rio Ferdinand named an “unreal” Barcelona star Manchester United should sign, though a player previously sent off against the Red Devils might be a more realistic target.

According to Fabrizio Romano, the next major addition at Old Trafford could come in the centre-back position.

Speaking on the Debrief Podcast on Monday, the trusted transfer guru explained: “As I’ve previously reported, we know Man Utd want a top centre-back for 2024, so we’re going to see a lot of names linked.”

An all-star six-man shortlist that includes two Premier League defenders has been drafted. However, according to Football Insider, Financial Fair Play restrictions mean United are likely to wait until the summer rather than make their move in January.

That has left the door ajar for Liverpool to swoop for Sporting Lisbon and Portugal centre-half, Goncalo Inacio. He is Jurgen Klopp’s No 1 defensive target according to BILD and his €49m release clause should make a deal straightforward.

In any case, United legend Rio Ferdinand has named two different centre-backs he believes his old club should consider signing.

“[Kevin Danso] at Lens, there’s one there, he’s good,” said Ferdinand when speaking to the Manchester Evening News.

“The Uruguayan boy at Barcelona – [Ronald] Araujo. Whether he’s gettable or not, I think he’s brilliant. He’s an unreal centre half.

“He has every attribute to be perfect for the Premier League. I’d probably say he’s the standout, but whether he’s gettable or not, I don’t know.”

Araujo transfer possible in one scenario

Araujo, 24, is under contract at Barcelona until the summer of 2026. Araujo is a guaranteed starter when fitness permits and played a starring role in Barca’s first LaLiga title since 2019 last season.

Barca are protected by Araujo’s €1bn release clause and there is no indication they’d be open to selling one of their leaders at the back.

One potential ray of hope comes from Barcelona’s delicate financial position, however. According to Spanish outlet Sport, Barca may be forced into selling a star they’d much rather keep to balance the books. That is the root cause of the recent links between Chelsea and Gavi.

Danso, meanwhile, has come on leaps and bounds since an underwhelming loan spell with Southampton back in the 2019/20 season.

The 25-year-old made just six league appearances for the Saints during the spell and was red carded in their 1-1 draw with Man Utd on August 31, 2019.

Danso was subsequently sold to Lens from parent club Augsburg in 2021 and demonstrating his development, earned a place in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year last season.

Despite Ferdinand’s hopes, there is nothing to suggest Man Utd are monitoring Danso at present.

Man Utd must upgrade their defence – Ferdinand

Ferdinand went on to claim United must mirror Man City and Liverpool in the backline if they’re to once again become genuine title challengers.

Liverpool in particular have had an extremely settled defence in recent seasons. Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson have been automatic selections for many a season.

It is that consistency that Ferdinand believes is missing at United and is preventing them from taking the next step in their development under Erik ten Hag.

“I’ve always said this – to be a successful team, you need that foundation of a solid defence and to be able to pick similar players,” Ferdinand continued.

“I think you look at the teams that have won recently – Liverpool and Man City – they’ve had consistency in their backlines of players featuring, especially in important stages of the season. And maybe United haven’t been afforded that.

“But [Lisandro] Martinez has been a huge, huge loss. His personality, his character, his ability on the ball has been exactly what Ten Hag wants and United were at their best last season when those two were playing together.

“But, again, with every person who falls away and gets injured, there’s an opportunity for someone else and at the moment, Harry Maguire seems to have that shirt. Hopefully that form continues now.”

PREM PREDICTIONS: Derby damage for Man Utd; Liverpool rout Forest; Newcastle stunned