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Toby Alderweireld Should Be Manchester United’s Next Big Signing After Jones And Smalling Show Their Flaws

Manchester United haven’t exactly scrimped in the transfer market over the past few years. Since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Old Trafford side have splurged £700 million on players. Seven players have spanned the Fergie, David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho eras, but the majority are now peripheral figures. Two, however, are still integral.

Phil Jones and Chris Smalling arrived at United within a year of each other. They were signed as the future of the club’s defence, but the duo have failed to live up to their billing in the time since. Jones has shown glimpses of his ability under Mourinho’s charge, with Smalling also impressing for a time under Van Gaal. But at no point over the past six years or so has either player strung together a lengthy sequence of solid performances.

This was apparent in Manchester United’s dismal defeat to Newcastle United on Sunday. Smalling, in particular, was shaky, at fault for the game’s only goal and fortunate not to give away a penalty kick for an unnecessarily risky tackle on Dwight Gayle. Jones might not have been so spectacularly haphazard, but still, he wasn’t much better. 

The fact that, after all these years, after all these expensive signings, Jones and Smalling are still considered a starting defensive partnership exposes the failings of Manchester United’s scattergun transfer policy. Rather on handing £500,000 a week to Alexis Sanchez, a player they didn’t really need, they should have been spending that money on defenders. 

Of course, United did spend money in the summer of 2016 on Eric Bailly. The Ivorian is currently injured, with Mourinho quite clearly missing his presence. But even when Bailly eventually returns a to the fold, Manchester United are still short of a partner for him. This is where their priority must lie at the end of the season.

Of course, United did spend money in the summer of 2016 on Eric Bailly. The Ivorian is currently injured, with Mourinho quite clearly missing his presence. But even when Bailly eventually returns a to the fold, Manchester United are still short of a partner for him.

This is where their priority must lie at the end of the season.They should move for Toby Alderweireld. Just this week, reports of a contract standoff between the Belgian and Spurs have swirled after the centre-back was left out of Mauricio Pochettino’s side for the Champions League last 16 tie away to Juventus. If the door has been left ajar for Alderweireld to leave Spurs, Manchester United must do their best to use that situation to their advantage.

“He is 28 and it was a massive [hamstring] injury that we need to care about, because we could not put at risk his career,” Pochettino sought to explain when asked why Alderweireld had been left out of his squad. “We designed a plan to try to provide him with the best tools to recover as soon as possible and be stronger than before.”

Regardless of the reasoning behind Alderweireld’s absence, Manchester United must be ambitious in their targeting of the 28-year-old. That’s what’s required to close the gap on Manchester City, and the Belgian fits the bill in a way neither Jones nor Smalling do. 

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