Erik ten Hag has been partially prioritising making signings that will reinforce his defensive structure this summer, with Mason Mount and André Onana the first through the doors at Old Trafford.
Erik ten Hag has certain problems with his back-line last season, with the squad conceding more than four goals on several occasions – a feat that no top side should look to achieve.
He has put an emphasis on making sure his squads defend as a unit, and the signing of Mason Mount, who is a hard-working and high-pressing midfielder, will only at to this.
In relation to Ten Hag’s back line, here are three signings that should, or would, have a significant impact on his squad.
#1 – Andre Onana
The Inter Milan goalkeeper has been linked with a move to United all summer and, now that it appears to be done, it is worth considering why this transfer is a perfect signing for Erik Ten Hag’s side.
Having worked with Onana before at Ajax, Ten Hag will no doubt be aware of his adept ball-playing ability and confidence with the ball inside and outside his penalty area, which Manchester United have desperately needed since Ten Hag took the helm at the beginning of last term.
This is precisely why Manchester United decided not to renew the contract of long-time No. 1 keeper David De Gea, who didn’t fit this style of play as he struggled when put under pressure on the ball. Onana on the other hand, fits this style perfectly, with a confidence on the ball that allows him to take on opposition attackers whilst also playing long passes to his teammates up front – drastically improving both the defence and offence of this Manchester United team.
Andre Onana was a key part of Inter’s success last season, keeping eight clean sheets in 24 games across the Serie A season, boasting a 73.5% save percentage – a statistic that De Gea has only beaten once in his previous five seasons.
However, it was in Inter’s exciting Champions League run which saw them reach the final, that Onana really impressed, preventing 7.6 goals across Inter’s Champions League fixtures, more than any other goalkeeper in the competition,
With an announcement from the club expected in the coming days, it is an exciting time for Manchester United having finally secured the signature of a world-class goalkeeper who will no doubt massively improve the side.
#2 – Antonio Silva
Whilst Lisandro Martínez has been incredible for Manchester United playing as the left-sided centre-back, his partner on the right, Raphaël Varane, has struggled with injuries throughout the season, leading to consistency issues within the United backline with the right centre-back frequently changing.
For this reason, Ten Hag may look to sign a young right-sided central defender who is far less likely to sustain an injury and yet, is happy to share minutes with Varane, who is expected to start when fit.
Antonio Silva fits this role perfectly as the 19-year-old has already proved himself a bright talent playing for Portuguese side Benfica this season. Benfica had an amazing season in 2022-23, winning 28 of their 34 games to give them the Primeria Liga title.
On top of this, they kept 21 clean sheets in the league, conceding just 20 goals all season, demonstrating their defensive prowess, of which Silva was an integral part.
A pass completion rate of 91.4% and an average of 1.9 tackles per game, clearly demonstrate that the youngster is more than capable despite his age. Add to this his ability to play out from the back, something which we know Ten Hag is looking to implement, with impressive dribbling and control, alongside his ability to play in the full-back positions when needed and it is clear why Antonio Silva would be a great signing for Manchester United this summer.
He would be an upgrade on Harry Maguire, who is currently rumoured to be leaving the club this summer.
#3 – Jeremie Frimpong
Despite an impressive season from Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the right-back position is one that Manchester United fans certainly feel needs some reinforcement. With that in mind, Jeremie Frimpong should be considered by Ten Hag as a potential signing in defence this summer.
The young Dutch talent has burst onto the scene since joining German side Beyer Leverkusen in 2021, where he has cemented a starting role in the team. In the 2022-23 season, Frimpong played 48 matches for Leverkusen, scoring an impressive 9 goals and assisting an additional 9, across both domestic and European competitions.
Frimpong’s exceptional speed and stamina allow him to bomb forward and join the attack, placing him in the top 90+% of statistics such as non-penalty xG, assists and shots when compared with other fullbacks in the top five domestic leagues and European competitions.
However, whilst Frimpong is certainly capable of tracking back to take care of his defensive responsibilities when needed, it is worth noting that some of his defensive stats leave a bit to be desired.
Frimpong currently falls in the bottom 40% of defensive statistics such as tackles, interceptions and clearances vs other fullbacks. However, at 22 years old, Frimpong is still young and has plenty of time to develop these areas under a top manager such as Erik Ten Hag.
Whilst it would maybe be wise to rotate Frimpong with Wan-Bissaka for fixtures where Ten Hag wants to field a more defensive lineup, there can be no doubt that if Manchester United desire an attacking fullback on the right side, then signing Jeremie Frimpong would give them one of the best in the world.
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