It’s safe to say Manchester United have struggled for form since resident left-back Luke Shaw was ruled out for the majority of the season with a double leg-break in September.
Of course, there are many other – and arguably more important – factors than simply the England international’s absence. But Matteo Darmian, Ashley Young, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson have all been tested at No.3 this season and the fact Louis van Gaal hasn’t settled on a long-term option speaks for itself.
With 16 Premier League fixtures remaining and United in danger of missing out on a Champions League spot, it could be worth scowling the market for someone who can fill Shaw’s void until he returns from injury. The 20-year-old is reportedly recovering quicker than expected but is still likely to be sidelined until March at the earliest.
With that in mind, here are FIVE emergency left-backs the Red Devils should consider signing before the January transfer window slams shut.
Capable of playing anywhere across the backline, Martin Caceres has proved a tactically expedient member of the Juventus squad since arriving at Turin Stadium in January 2012 – particularly during their days of a three-man defence.
But the Old Lady now operate with a back four and the Uruguay international has resultantly found himself marginalised this season, issued just three Serie A starts so far by Massimo Allegri, and looks set to leave the club either this month or in the summer with his contract winding down.
That will likely force Juve into selling the 28-year-old on the cheap and when combined with his versatility and experience at major clubs – previously plying his trade with Barcelona and Sevilla – United could certainly do a lot worse than launching a cut-price bid for Caceres this month.
21-year-old Jetro Willems has been rated as one of the Netherlands’ most exciting youngsters for some time, making his Oranje debut all the way back in 2012.
He’s not made a competitive appearance this season due to injury but was in scintillating form last term, racking up two goals and 13 assists in 30 Eredivisie outings for PSV.
The dynamic full-back is famed for his penetrative pace and relentless energy – two key characteristics the Red Devils have seriously lacked in the absence of Luke Shaw’s regular overlapping runs into the final third.
With his contract set to expire at the end of next season, United might be able to land a decent deal for the 15-cap international this month and reuniting Willems with former left-sided accomplice Memphis Depay could well bring the best out of both of them at Old Trafford.
But Willems’ lack of fitness is certainly a concern and more than any other player on this list, his presence would cause a few selection dilemmas when Luke Shaw returns from injury.
Juan Bernat certainly showed some promise during his debut season at Bayern Munich but quickly fell afoul of fans after being run ragged by Barcelona’s formidable front three during the 2015 Champions League semi-finals.
He’s resultantly slumped down the pecking order somewhat whilst continuous injuries have also severely impacted his game time this season, managing just nine outings across all competitions and none since a 2-0 defeat to Arsenal in October.
Ideally, the Red Devils would like to sign a fully fit left-back to fill Luke Shaw’s void and the Spain international’s recent injures are certainly a concern.
But boasting probably the most holistic squad in world football, Bayern can unquestionably afford to let the 22-year-old continue his development elsewhere for the rest of the season and United represent a very enticing proposition. A loan bid could quickly prove a shrewd move on Louis van Gaal’s part.
There are certainly more talented defenders out there than Yuto Nagatomo but the 29-year-old offers plenty of experience, with 160 appearances across all competitions for Inter Milan and 83 caps for the Japanese national team.
The former FC Tokyo star is famed for his industriousness, versatility and willingness to impact going forward, having operated as a left-back, a right-back, a wing-back and a winger throughout his five-year spell at the San Siro and often been praised for his relentless energy.
The Asian star’s Inter tenure looks set to come to an end before the start of next season, however, with Nagatomo’s contract set to expire in the summer. In a similar vein to Caceres, he represents a cut-price signing who could do a job at No.3 until the end of the season – whilst adding experience and depth to United’s squad in the long term.
Bruno Martins Indi impressed under Louis van Gaal’s direction at the 2014 World Cup and has been linked with an Old Trafford move somewhat sparingly over the last few months.
The Netherlands international finds himself in a similar bracket to United’s Marcos Rojo, as a defender who lacks the pace to be considered an out-and-out full-back and the height to play exclusively at centre-half.
Nonetheless, his injection of power and physicality at No.3 has seen the 23-year-old hold down a regular spot in the Porto starting Xi since signing from PSV eighteen months ago. Likewise, he often has an important impact in big games, when full-backs aren’t expected to relentlessly overlap for the whole ninety minutes.
The Primeira Liga giants know how to drive a hard bargain, however, and will be reluctant to sell Martins Indi with two-and-a-half years remaining on his contract.