Manchester United’s 2-1 Community Shield win over Leicester may not have told us too much about the upcoming Premier League campaign, but if nothing else the FA Cup winners’ first goal, courtesy of Jesse Lingard, suggests the champions are a little light at centre-half.
Lingard is no Ryan Giggs, yet the 23-year-old Warrington winger managed to beat four Foxes players, including centre-backs Wes Morgan and Robert Huth, before slotting home a second Wembley goal in as many matches, having bagged the FA Cup final winner in May.
Captain Morgan and former Germany international Huth were practically ever present during their side’s remarkable run to a first ever top-flight title, but with both on the wrong side of 30, and considering the ferocious extra demands ahead this term, boss Claudio Ranieri needs cover.
The Italian has already picked up uncapped Spaniard Luis Hernandez on a free from Sporting Gijon this summer, but with only veteran Pole Marcin Wasilewski beyond that centre-half trio in the first-team squad, it’s time for King Power supremo Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha to shell out.
It just so happens that there’s a player who could be right up Ranieri’s street heading to the transfer market.
New Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola dropped huge hints as to the futures of trio Bacary Sagna, Wilfried Bony and Eliaquim Mangala after his side’s 3-2 friendly loss to Arsenal, stating:
“Now, in that moment, they are players for Manchester City. Of course, until something happens they will be a player.”
With all three left out of the squad that travelled to Gothenburg, Guardiola appears to be signalling a partial clearout at the Etihad, with 25-year-old France international Mangala an intriguing transfer prospect.
The former Porto man’s career could hardly be at a lower ebb after struggling to justify the £30m-plus fee City splurged on him 12 months ago, leaving Mangala largely consigned to France’s bench at Euro 2016, despite Les Bleus suffering an injury crisis in defence.
If there’s a better place to rejuvenate flailing talent than Leicester then it’s yet to be discovered – just ask Premier League title winners Huth, Danny Simpson, Danny Drinkwater and Marc Albrighton, each of whom were discarded by ‘bigger’ clubs before switching to the Foxes.
As a centre-half, it’s arguable that Mangala isn’t due to peak for a few years yet, and while City would expect at least £20m back from their colossal initial investment, Leicester have the money.
The champions are 25/1 to retain their Premier League title this season.