Last season, Manchester United were found wanting at the back on many occasions and too often had to rely on Robin van Persie to dig them out of trouble. Although defensive performances improved during the latter half of the season, it highlighted the delicate nature of United’s back line options. With two ageing stars, in Vidic and Rio, and two developing youngsters, in Smalling and Jones, United were left with only one centre half in his prime in Jonny Evans.
It is therefore unsurprising that United have been linked with a £17 million move for Argentinian centre half, Ezequial Garay. A rock at the heart of the Benfica’s defence, the 26 year old is at the height of his powers and, after reportedly agreeing a gentlemen’s agreement last month, is 1/6 on to join with Sky Bet.
Since signing for Benfica in 2011, after an unsuccessful spell at Real Madrid, Garay has reminded everyone of his class during his 79 appearances at the Estadio da Luz. Strong in the air, consummate in the tackle and a fine connoisseur of the interception, Garay is a classy sweeper who would compliment the rugged style of Vidic and Jones.
Comfortable taking the ball out of defence, it is easy to see why Real Madrid signed him in 2009 and now, after maturing a lot in the past few seasons, he seems ready to test himself at the very highest level once again. Along side United’s preeminent centre half nowadays, Jonny Evans, United would have two aerially confident but technically adapt and agile ball players at centre half, who would provide the Red Devils with the foundations to implement a confident tika taka style.
Turing 27 in October, Garay is approaching the peak of his powers and will be looking to exploit that. After struggling with the steep learning curve at the Bernabeau, Garay has a non confrontational style that would be challenged by some of the more rugged Premier League teams but he is now more than experienced enough to deal with these difficulties.
Unfortunately, Benfica had a horrendous end to the season, losing the domestic league, domestic cup and Europa League Final in quick succession but this can only have worked to motivate Garay further. Surrounded by habitual winners at Old Trafford, there’s no reason he could not rise to the occasion.
Garay is a centre half by trade and would be brought in to fulfil a very specific role. United already have a plethora of versatile defenders and have in fact suffered for it. Jones is too often needed in midfield and Smalling has often been shifted to full back. If Garay were to come in, it would be to play in the middle, alongisde the likes of Evans, Vidic and Ferdinand.
With Monaco’s persistent interest in Vidic, Rio’s inevitable deterioration and Smalling’s stalled development, a centre half is an obvious purchase for David Moyes this summer. In other circumstances, considering United’s reluctance to spend money on older players, Garay’s age may have been a deterrence but with the likes of Jones and Smalling in the squad, a more experienced addition is a prudent option.
United have repeatedly shown their desire to purchase an additional centre half with their interest in the likes of Ogbonna, Varane and Zouma. Although Garay is substancially more experienced than these aforementioned footballers, he is of a higher calibre to other touted targets such as Swansea’s Ashley Williams. Sir Alex Ferguson and his brother, Martin, both seem to have admired Garay’s talents and it is likely that Moyes will want to pursue their interest.
However, his price tag may be off putting if Benfica don’t lower their demands. At the moment, they are obliged to give 50% of any transfer fee to Real Madrid and 10% to his third party owners. As such, he may prove too expensive an option, unless he pushed through a move himself. He may do this because he has only made 15 appearances for Argentina so far and a move to United would certainly help improve his prospects of playing in Brazil 2014. Whether this will happen, remains to be seen.