Despite spending just about every bit of money left in the world on their current centre back options, Manchester United are on the hunt for a new defender and could still do with the boost of another signing.
Victor Lindelof hasn't quite developed as expected when he was signed for just over £30m in 2017 and while Eric Bailly has looked like the man to partner Harry Maguire when fit, United have hardly reaped the rewards from spending £30m to sign him in 2016.
As for Harry Maguire, the polarising England international splits opinions just about everywhere. But considering United paid a world record £80m for his services, he's sticking around whether fans like it or not, meaning a new defender must come in to partner him.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are slowly improving with time and developing into a consistent team with direction for the first time in years. While the summer will likely involve the pursuit of more attacking options, another central defender is needed to continue United's transformation. Signing that defender in the January transfer window would go a long way in easing stress in the summer and ensuring they get the best out of whoever the signing might be in the long term.
Despite the efforts of Jose Mourinho and now Solskjaer, United's current defensive options simply aren't cutting it. Eric Bailly's injury record is mightily unfortunate, but not something the Red Devils can afford to waste time on any longer as the squad continues to progress.
United conceded 36 Premier League goals in total during the 2019/20 campaign, but have already let in 24 this season and are yet to reach the halfway point.
Lindelof has failed to improve on key aspects of his game such as aerial ability and reading of play. While his passing is a strength, he's often caught out and at 26 years old, United must be prioritising a candidate with a larger development window or somebody who is already at the required level.
With Bailly and Lindelof not up for the task, it leaves Axel Tuanzebe, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo in the hat. The jury remains out on Tuanzebe who - similarly to Bailly - struggles to maintain fitness, and the less said about Jones and Rojo the better. With so many defensive options sticking around but not fit for the job, there's enough for United to sell to fund a January move for a new centre back.
Part of the problem that still exists among Solskjaer's squad is the amount of deadwood that remains. He's been the most successful man since Sir Alex Ferguson in clearing it out, but there is still some way to go. If United can commit to shifting some more players in the January window, there's the opportunity to bring in a new player before the summer, which can only benefit the squad moving forward.
Their decision to pull the trigger on Bruno Fernandes in January 2020 serves as testament to that. While many are quick to doubt January signings, Fernandes' impact on the United squad has been like no other, because they were so desperate for a creative outlet. Signing a defender in January 2021 would wield similar outcomes; it gives them the second half of the season to get to grips with the English game and provides the squad with a boost, but also guarantees them a full pre-season with the squad and essentially prepares them for the following season well in advance.
Getting some business done sooner rather than later also trims down the shopping list. It's no secret that the Red Devils are expected to pursue some major deals in summer, be it reigniting interest in Jadon Sancho or Jack Grealish, or moving for a striker and a defensive midfielder. A centre back is still on that list, however, meaning if they can get one in now, it gives them more chance of landing targets in summer.
Whether it be another veteran with a CV bursting at the seams like Edinson Cavani or a young talent with a bright future, a new central defender is needed at the Theatre of Dreams in order to make good on the strides forward and get the best out of Harry Maguire.
If United can get that candidate in before the January transfer deadline, it's another step closer to balancing an already talented squad.