Manchester United could be poised for a transfer battle with fierce rivals Manchester City after both expressed an interest in signing West Ham’s in-form defender Angelo Ogbonna, according to reports.
United are looking to strengthen a back line that has been decimated by injuries this season, with manager Louis van Gaal having to resort to the centre-back pairing of Daley Blind and Michael Carrick for last weekend’s 3-2 victory over Arsenal, with youngster Timothy Fosu-Mensah being handed his first start at centre-back in Wednesday night’s 1-0 win against Watford.
According to The Times, West Ham’s Ogbonna has emerged as the leading candidate to boost United’s defensive options given his impressive performances of late and experience of playing in the Premier League, but City are also primed to make a bid for the Italy international, with serious questions remaining over their centre-back options.
City were ripped apart at the back by Liverpool’s attacking line during Wednesday’s 3-0 loss at Anfield, with Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany struggling to prevent Adam Lallana and James Milner from controlling the game – just days after beating the Reds in the Capital One Cup final in a penalty shootout.
Having initially struggled to find his feet in England, Ogbonna has excelled for the Hammers since coming into the first team in November, and has gone about justifying the £8m that Slaven Bilic sanctioned to be paid to Juventus to sign the 27-year-old.
United actually came close to signing Ogbonna in 2012 when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge at Old Trafford, only to balk at Torino’s £16m asking price, and the centre-back would go on to join their Turin rivals a year later for £10m.
Ogbonna would also offer versatility given his ability to play at left-back, something which United are looking for given the injuries suffered to Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo this season that has left them short on the left flank. Both Ashley Young and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson have shared the position in their absence, only for Young to suffer a groin injury that required surgery and meant he has missed the bulk of 2016 so far.