At the start of the 21/22 season, Manchester United fans were convinced that their season couldn't be worse, but it could, and it did. Despite star signings such as Ronaldo, Varane, and Sancho, the Red Devils were left out of the champions league spot and just hanging on for the Europa League.
But their problem has not been in attack but in defense. The inconsistency from the likes of Harry Maguire and Phil Jones hurt the team and injuries to Varane and Wan Bissaka weren't making things any better.
Manchester United finished the season on sixth with 58 points, just 2 above West Ham who bottled their final game of the season. They are the only team in the top 8 to have a goal difference of zero or less. They conceded a goal every 60 minutes and many of them came in the final minutes of the game.
The inability of seeing games out has been a problem for the Red Devils in the past few years. They were terrible at transfer markets as their huge budget transfers such as Harry Maguire and Jadon Sancho were sumptuously inconsistent.
However, it's a brand new season, it's a brand new coach in Eric Ten Hag and fans expect that the Dutchman will bring in some big names in defense. Here is a list of 10 potential defenders Manchester United will keep an eye out for the 22/23 season.
1. Jurrien Timber (AFC Ajax)
The 21-year-old Ajax defender is on the top of the Ten Hag's shortlist. Shortly after his appointment as the Red Devils' manager, the Dutchman talked about bringing in a defender from Ajax.
And ever since the season folded, the Dutch defender has been heavily linked with Man United. The young center-back made 30 appearances in the Eredivise this season recording 73 tackles and 50 interceptions.
Showcasing the best defense in the league, Timber wasn't even booked once throughout the season, which shows his disciplinary approach towards the game.
A candidate for the European golden boy, Timber is probably the best choice for United this season. Not to mention his relationship with Ten Hag is very good and the new Man United manager may just be able to convince him to join the team.
However, the latest reports say that the 21-year-old defender is set to reject the offer.
2. Pau Torres (Villareal FC)
If there's a team that deserves the appreciation of the season, it's Villareal and Pau Torres has been simply instrumental for the yellow submarines, especially in the Champions League campaign.
The 25-year-old Spanish center-back made 12 appearances in the champions league scoring a goal in a group stage game against Juventus. He led Villareal all the way to the semis, displaying a career-best performance in defense.
Also, in Laliga, Torres made a total of 32 successful tackles in 33 appearances along with 19 interceptions and 23 blocks.
And it is not a surprise that big names around Europe are gunning for the Spanish International. With profound interests from PSG, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hostpur, Manchester United have to act fast if they have any intention of landing him in Old Trafford.
Few sources have mentioned that the Red Devils are set to make a whopping £55 million offer that breaks his release clause. So, the 25-year-old might land in England next season.
3. Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)
Not a single transfer window goes away without mentioning the name of Matthijs de Ligt.
The Juventus defender is another on the list for Eric Ten Hag. Having closely worked with him in Ajax, the Dutch manager will play his every card to land the 22-year-old in Old Trafford.
However, this isn't so easy as other clubs like Chelsea and Spurs are heavily linked with him too, with the rumors of interest from Barcelona as well.
As a Juventus player, the center-back recorded 34 tackles and 26 interceptions throughout the season. He has 11 clean sheets in 31 appearances in Serie A this season.
The former Ajax defender will probably leave Serie A this season, but it is too soon to talk about his future club. The 22-year-old is one of the highest-rated defenders at the moment, already proving himself on big stages.
With proper motivation and mindset, Ten Hag might be able to bring him to Old Trafford.
4. Jules Kounde (Sevilla FC)
The 23-year-old French defender is heavily linked with teams like Chelsea and Barcelona.
However, we know about these transfer rumors and they don't always go through. Well, to be honest, they very rarely go through.
So, Manchester United might be thinking to get in a race for the Sevilla defender. There's no doubting his talent and hard work and his ability to play both as a center-back and wing-back makes him exceptionally valuable.
With 40 tackles and 13 clean sheets with Sevilla in Laliga, the French defender marked yet another successful season.
With the reports of failing relationships with Timber and De Ligt, Kounde might be another good option for Red Devils if they want to make a statement for the upcoming season.
5. Gleison Bremer (Torino)
The 6'2 Brazilian center-back was named the Serie A Defender of the Season.
As of now, Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan are the front-runners to sign Gleison Bremer. And why not? After the success Cristian Romero brought for the London side, they might as well go and sign every season's best defender.
The defender is coming out of a successful season with Torino recording the league's third-highest 331 aerial duels and 89 tackles won. He also ranks 1st in the league in pass interception
There are no rumors about Manchester United going for the Brazilian center-back for now. But if the deal fails with several linked Dutch players, the Red Devils may have to look for options available on the market.
And the Torino defender is probably the most suitable option for United. He has a decent pace and is incredibly good in the air. But reports say the 25-year-old will sign for Inter Milan in the coming days.
6. Presnel Kimpembe (PSG)
The world cup winner is not exactly on the market but with PSG looking for a new defender, he might just be.
Kimpembe has been a regular starter for the Ligue 1 side but with his contract expiring in 2024, PSG might as well think about the offers on the table.
Moreover, the left-footed center-back didn't have a dreamy 21/22 season with PSG managing to keep 6 clean sheets in 30 appearances he made. But he did make 34 successful tackles and 38 interceptions.
The French defender might not be on the shortlist for Eric Ten Hag but a big name in defense might just ease the pressure. The 26-year-old center-back has a lot of playing days left in the tank.
We have seen more improbable transfer deals go through.
7. Lisandro Martinez (AFC Ajax)
Two Premier League clubs, Manchester United and Arsenal are eyeing the Ajax defender.
The Argentine center-back is best known for his aggressiveness, much like his national teammate, Cristian Romero. After coming with two international trophies with Argentina, the defender is high in motivation.
In the 21/22 season, the Argentine made an impressive 48 successful tackles and intercepted the ball 46 times. He managed to keep 11 clean sheets in just 24 games he played for Ajax.
Manchester United has not made any bids for the 24-year-old until now. But Ten Hag has hinted that the Red Devils are interested in the defender. But they will have to make a move soon as Arsenal reportedly has made a bid for him already.
8. Kalidou Koulibaly (SSC Napoli)
Kalidou Koulibaly is another name that pops up during every transfer window.
The 30-year-old Napoli defender is vastly linked with Chelsea and Barcelona. It looks like the Chelsea deal might not go through and the Catalan giants have their own problems regarding finance.
So, the Senegalese international might be the defender Manchester United may look at. To be honest, for a defender with the stature of Kalidou Koulibaly, everyone is looking for him.
The defensive beast concluded the 21/22 season with 39 successful tackles and 29 interceptions in 27 appearances. Also, he kept 11 clean sheets.
With new management, Ten Hag might be able to convince the center-back to join Man United.
9. Merih Demiral (Juventus)
With his impressive loan spell with Atalanta, the 24-year-old is returning back to Juventus. However, his parent team has financial problems and they would be happy to offload him if the offers arrive.
With that said, there have been rumors of interest from Chelsea for some time. But recently, Manchester United has swooped in for the chase.
The Turkish defender has a good relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo and reports say that the 5-time Ballon d'Or winner is trying to convince him to join Man United.
Moreover, the Juventus-loanee had a wonderful season with Atalanta recording 31 tackles and 58 interceptions in 28 Serie A appearances.
With Chelsea breathing down their neck, this transfer saga could be the one to watch out for.
10. Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan)
Another Serie A defender on the list is Fikayo Tomori.
The 24-year-old English defender led AC Milan to domestic glory after 11 years. He was instrumental in the team recording 73 tackles and 45 interceptions in 31 games. The center-back managed 11 clean sheets as well.
However, the former Chelsea player is very unlikely to leave the club this season as his loan spell was just made permanent. But we have seen stranger things happen in football, so who knows?