Manchester United defenders Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof endured a night to forget at Old Trafford, one that has raised question about whether or not they are fit for purpose as a duo as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side lost ground in the Premier League title race.
It seems Solskjaer’s side are still smarting from the 2-0 quarter-final defeat to Manchester City in the Carabao Cup as defensive frailties once again ultimately proved to be their undoing.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored a late equaliser to snatch a dramatic point from the jaws of defeat for the Toffees as United missed a chance to go level on points at the top of the Premier League with Manchester City, who have two games in hand over their neighbours and play Liverpool on Sunday.
“We’re not talking about winning titles,” said Solskjaer.
“We’ve come a long way. We shouldn’t be considered as title chasers. That’s one for you [media]. We’ve got better as a team – let’s see where we end up.”
Captain Maguire has been a shoo-in to start in centre of the defence but has been partnered by Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe at various points over the course of the campaign and was at fault himself for the defensive meltdown they suffered against the Toffees.
Reports have now emerged over the past week suggesting that the Red Devils are leading the race to sign Nikola Milenkovic from Serie A side Fiorentina.
The £25m-rated 23-year-old, who has won 26 caps for his country, is one of the most highly-rated centre-backs in European football, having made 118 appearances across all competitions, per Transfermarkt.
Signing Milenkovic in the summer would give United an immediate upgrade on Lindelof. Again last night, he was rated as one of the worst United players on the pitch by SofaScore in the 3-3 draw with Everton. By the numbers, the Serbian’s defensive stats are better than Lindelof’s in almost every area, as per WhoScored.
Milenkovic is currently averaging more tackles (1.6) and more interceptions (1.2) per 90 in all competitions and makes more blocks than Lindelof as well, which suggests that he would be a calmer and more commanding presence alongside Maguire at the back.
It’s no surprise, then, that he has attracted interest from clubs across Europe, who are set to battle for his signature when the transfer market re-opens in a few months time.
At 23, he could be one of United’s starters for years to come if Ed Woodward brings him to Old Trafford and if he is able to hit the ground running, whilst he still has room for improvement.
The stats indicate that he could be able to do this and coupled with the fact he has experience of playing in the Europa League, which shows that he has played at a high standard of the game, he could be the man to come in and finally solve United’s defensive issues.
AND in other news, Harry Maguire let Manchester United down on Saturday…