Ten Hag is prioritising a defender in the upcoming transfer window
Manchester United’s recent form has led them to near crisis point, as the club have only won once in four Champions League ties, while they occupy sixth spot in the Premier League table.
This has led to Erik ten Hag being placed under a lot of pressure and with a run of crucial fixtures coming up, he cant afford to slip up anymore.
The Old Trafford side play Liverpool, Newcastle United, Chelsea and Bayern Munich all in the coming weeks and if they can get through this tough run unscathed, there might just be hope for the Dutchman yet.
Much will depend on how his side performs, however, as they have struggled to control matches this season, while their faltering attack has failed them in the big matches.
Not only that, but their defence has been bordering on shambolic in spells this term also. The Red Devils have conceded 30 goals in just 18 matches, and it isn’t even December yet.
No wonder they are struggling both domestically and in Europe, as Ten Hag has been let down by players who arguably should have departed the club during the summer transfer window.
Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof are not the defenders that the former Ajax boss requires to take his team to the next level, and they have had to play more than anticipated due to injury problems to others.
Harry Maguire's and Victor Lindelof's numbers this season
The duo earn a combined total of £370k-per-week - 9% of the weekly wage bill - yet their performances on the field simply don’t match up to earning this substantial amount.
The pair currently rank in 15th and 16th spot respectively across the United squad in the league for tackles per game (0.6 and 0.4) along with ranking fourth and 12th for interceptions per game (0.7 and 0.4) and these stats clearly show how little they are influencing the team from a defensive point of view.
Lindelof has won just 41% of his ground duels in the league this term, while Maguire has won just 50% of his, indicating that they are struggling in one-on-one battles with opposition players.
The quicker Ten Hag has a fit Lisandro Martínez back the better. Until then, the Dutchman is going to have to use the aforementioned duo, until the January transfer window at least.
With just a few weeks to go until the window opens, it appears the 53-year-old is eyeing a move for a defender or two, and a Frenchman has emerged as a key target…
Maguire and Lindelof's potential replacement
Jean-Clair Todibo was originally a target for the club during the summer transfer window, yet no move ever materialised, but this hasn’t put Ten Hag going back in for the Nice star.
According to The Mirror, the Old Trafford side are prioritising a move for a defender in the upcoming winter window and this means they could be back in for Todibo.
With Sir Jim Ratcliffe close to securing a 25% share in Utd, he also owns Nice, for whom Todibo plays which could potentially play into the hands of the Red Devils during any potential move.
Having missed out on him during the summer, Ten Hag will be aiming to avoid a repeat of that in the next few weeks, as he is desperate to improve his options at the back.
He may need to ship a few players on for this to become a reality, however, especially as the manager doesn't quite know what sort of budget he will be working with.
Jean-Clair Todibo’s career statistics
The Frenchman started his career with Toulouse before making a switch to Barcelona in 2019, yet this didn’t exactly go to plan as he made just five appearances during his spell in Spain.
The defender has impressed having joined Nice in 2021, and he hasn’t looked back since, making over 100 appearances for the club whilst even earning two caps for France recently, showing how far he has come over the last couple of years.
Jean-Clair Todibo Ligue 1 stats
Accurate passes per game
Tackles per game
Interceptions per game
Clearances per game
Total duels won per game
Stats via Sofascore
Talent scout Jacek Kulig lavished praise on him at the start of the year, saying: “One of the most underrated CBs in Europe at the moment. Having a really good season despite Nice underachieving quite a lot. Superb build-up and defensive attributes. Complete package.”
United clearly missed a trick not luring him to Manchester, especially with his statistics for the French club in recent times.
Indeed, the 6 foot 2 titan impressed when compared to his positional peers over the last 12 months. According to FBref, he currently ranks in the top 5% for tackles per 90 (2.47), the top 10% for attempted passes per 90 (76.4) and the top 7% for successful take-ons per 90 (0.62), proving he excelled across a wide range of performance metrics.
Not only that, but he also ranks second across the Nice squad for accurate passes per game (78.2) in Ligue 1, along with ranking second for tackles per game (two) and for interceptions per game (1.4), proving that he is one of the better performers in their squad.
The 23-year-old is certainly a massive talent and the next step for him in his career is to secure a move to the Premier League, especially as he can continue his development across the channel.
The youngster has shown that he is ready to make the step up to a club like United and, with their current defensive woes, he would immediately improve their backline.
Maguire and Lindelof surely don’t have much longer left in Manchester. The Swede is out of contract at the end of the current season and it is unlikely that he will secure a new deal.
The Englishman, on the other hand, has a year longer on his contract, yet considering how close he was to joining West Ham United in the summer, he certainly won't be around by then.
This upcoming window could be Ten Hag’s most important yet, although much will depend on whether he is still actually in charge following a tough run of fixtures.
If he is and United are able to sign one or two top-class defenders, their fortunes might just change during the second half of the season.