'They need a Van Dijk' – Fletcher calls for Man Utd to sign a defensive leader

The former Red Devil believes that the club must bring in a new centre-back in the same mould as the Dutchman, who has had a huge impact at Liverpool

Ex-Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher insists that Jose Mourinho needs a defender who can have the same influence at Old Trafford as Virgil van Dijk has had at Anfield.

The Red Devils have endured a nightmare start to the 2018-19 campaign and currently sit a whopping 16 points behind Premier League leaders Liverpool, having won just seven out of 16 matches.

Mourinho’s men have been uncharacteristically lacklustre at the back, shipping 26 goals, a tally which is already just two less than they managed to concede during the entire previous season.

Meanwhile, Liverpool have benefitted hugely since Van Dijk’s arrival back in January, transforming into a well-balanced, organised and disciplined team capable of challenging for silverware across all fronts.

And Fletcher believes that United need to bring in a defender in the same class as the Netherlands international, who can lead by example at the back and bring the best out of his teammates.

“There is no doubt that some of these Manchester United defenders are capable but they need that figurehead, that leader who could guide them,” he told BBC Sport.

“A top class centre-half like Virgil van Dijk has accelerated the progress of players at Liverpool.

“When he’s not there they look questionable and that’s the difference that one top centre-half can have.”

Mourinho’s men were beaten 2-1 by Valencia on Wednesday evening in their final Champions League group stage fixture, having already booked their place in the knockout phase.

With just two wins from their last seven games across all competitions, United are in danger of dropping out of the race for major trophies and a top-four finish, with a huge clash against Liverpool up next on Sunday.

Ex-Chelsea winger Pat Nevin agreed with his colleague’s assessment of the club’s current situation while also suggesting Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld as a possible January target.

“It’s not as if there aren’t enough good players at Manchester United,” he said. “You could make an argument that there are not enough good defenders at the very highest level, particularly in the centre.

“I always felt Manchester United should be up around the third place and it’s a real surprise they have not managed to do it.

“Someone like Toby [Alderweireld] might have been probably good enough to do that.

“It’s amazing how much somebody like that can do because it just settles everyone else around them.

“You probably only need one top centre-back to be able to do that and Jose [Mourinho] needed a top quality centre-back.”

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