Manchester United have drawn up a five-man shortlist of centre-halves as they look to strengthen the centre of their defence for next season in hope of challenging for the Premier League title.
Despite finishing second, the Red Devils leaked 44 goals in the 2020-21 Premier League season, 12 more than champions Manchester City and eight more than they conceded in the previous campaign.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants a top-class partner for captain Harry Maguire in order to ensure United can properly compete with their Manchester neighbours and also go deeper into the Champions League next term.
And United are currently assessing their options as they determine which target to prioritise in the upcoming summer window.
Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane is among the candidates they are canvassing and their interest in him is such that talks are being held with his representatives.
The France international, who will represent his country at Euro 2020 this summer, is out of contract in 12 months’ time with Real Madrid.
That means the vastly-experienced 27-year-old, who has spent a decade at the Bernabeu, might be available on the cheap as a result.
He could be available for as little as £40million it has been suggested and per the Manchester Evening News, United and the French defender’s team are in contact with one another.
Yet the same report says Varane is only one of five players on United’s shortlist of centre-back options.
Another is Villarreal’s Spain international Pau Torres, who like Varane will take part in this summer’s international tournament after being called up by Luis Enrique.
Torres goes head-to-head with United on Wednesday night in the final of the Europa League in Gdansk, Poland.
The MEN say while there has been no recent contact, Torres is being looked at and United will use the final as an audition for the defender, who is under contract until 2024 but has a £50million release clause in his deal.
Manchester City also like Torres but it’s said his future is unlikely to be decided until after the Euros, which begin on June 11 and will be concluded a month later on July 11.
Axel Tuanzebe meanwhile is only signed up until the summer of 2022 but the club have an option to extend his agreement by an extra 12 months, which will prevent them from needing to sell in the coming months.
Legendary former United midfielder Paul Scholes, however, would like to Paris Saint-Germain’s Marquinhos brought to Old Trafford.
“It would be great to have a left-footed centre back but I don’t think it’s needed,” he told the Webby and O’Neill show on YouTube.
“I don’t think we are desperate for that. I would like to see a centre-half come in next to Maguire. I think Lindelof is doing alright, I just think alright isn’t good enough to win a league.
“Marquinhos from PSG, I think he’s be a brilliant centre-half next to Maguire but again you’re talking about a lot of money.”
The 27-year-old Brazilian, under contract until 2024 in the capital of France, is not thought to be an active target for United despite his obvious quality.