Manchester United returned to Premier League action by putting in another mixed display at home to Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday evening, with the Red Devils twice being pegged back despite a pair of fabulous finishes from Rasmus Hojlund and Marcus Rashford.
On a day where a typically limp frontline showed signs of life, it was the defensive unit that came under the microscope, having softly conceded from a corner inside the first half, while having also allowed Rodrigo Bentancur to waltz into the penalty area with ease just after the break.
Although the return of Lisandro Martinez has lifted spirits, it remains to be seen who will be his long-term partner at the heart of the defence, with Raphael Varane and Jonny Evans both out of contract this summer, while it wasn’t too long ago that Harry Maguire looked set for a summer exit.
With that in mind, it is no surprise that the Old Trafford outfit are looking for a potential upgrade in that position at present…
Man Utd want to sign LaLiga sensation
According to Sky Germany reporter Florian Plettenberg, United have lodged an enquiry to Barcelona regarding the potential signing of Ronald Araujo, in order to ascertain the potential cost of landing the Uruguayan star in 2024.
The report indicates that any deal is likely to cost around €80m (£69m) this month, hence why a summer move is the more likely scenario, with the player himself seemingly keen to stay put at Camp Nou beyond the current window.
If Ten Hag is to get his man at the end of the season, he will also face competition from German giants Bayern Munich, who are said to view the 24-year-old as a “top target”
How Ronaldo Araujo compares to Harry Maguire
Prior to sustaining a cruel injury blow last month, it was Maguire who had cemented himself as the leading presence in Ten Hag’s defence, even winning the Premier League’s Player of the Month award for November as a marker of his fine resurgence.
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The Red Devils have been linked with a swoop for the world-class centre-forward.
As alluded to previously, however, the 30-year-old was believed to be up for grabs over the summer after being stripped of the captaincy, with the United boss viewing his ‘sluggish pace’ as a key issue in the backline.
Snapping up Araujo, therefore, could prove the final nail in the coffin for Maguire’s time in Manchester, with the 6 foot 2 titan arguably “one of the best in the world” in his position, according to Barca boss, Xavi Hernandez.
The 16-cap international – who has been hailed as a “Rolls-Royce” by talent scout Jacek Kulig – is particularly impressive with regard to his ability to play out from the back, notably ranking in the top 7% among his European peers for successful take-ons per 90, as well as in the top 13% for progressive passes per 90.
Maguire, meanwhile, ranks in just the top 60% and the top 21% for those same two metrics, respectively, across the last 365 days, proving himself far less adept at carrying the ball forward from deep.
Most similar players to Araujo – as per FBref
1- Jules Kounde
2 – Levi Colwill
3 – Ben Davies
4 – Niklas Sule
5 – Josko Gvardiol
6 – Mohamed Simakan
7 – Facundo Medina
8 – Nico Schlotterback
9 – Lewis Dunk
10 – Piero Hincapie
That contrast in quality can also be seen by Araujo’s defensive prowess, as he has won 64% of his total duels in LaLiga so far this term, as well as winning 58% of his ground duels, while the ex-United skipper has won just 60% of his total duels and only 43% of his ground duels.
With Araujo also a figure who gives off “prime [Virgil] Van Dijk vibes” – according to Kulig – he could prove to be a transformational signing for those at Old Trafford, helping to also offer a more youthful, long-term solution in a largely ageing department.