Will Manchester United move for Ezequiel Garay in the summer window?

Manchester United look set to recruit heavily this summer, with the arrival of Wilfried Zaha already confirmed, and several central midfield targets being scouted thoroughly by Sir Alex Ferguson’s worldwide scouting team.

Top of the Scot’s list though is a central defender and Benfica’s Ezequiel Garay is currently the club’s number one target. The Argentine has starred for his side in both the Primeira Liga and Champions League this season; as a result, he has attracted strong interest from the Red Devils.

The 26-year-old will be watched on an intensive basis over the next few months as United weigh up whether to make a bid in the Summer.

Ferguson is keen to strengthen his defence by August, especially considering how weak it has seemed at times this season. They could look to strengthen the full-back areas – Patrice Evra is now 31 and also entering the later stage of his career – but centre-half, where Ferdinand is now 34 and partner Nemanja Vidic has been battling injuries, remains top priority.

Benfica are currently 2nd (based on goal difference) in the Portuguese Liga, but face financial pressure to sell Ezequiel Garay this summer as they cannot afford to continue paying his wages. Rated at about £15m, the South American is also being tracked by Juventus and several other European clubs. For any deal that’s made, Garay’s former club Real Madrid are entitled to half of whatever fee he is eventually sold for.

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Quick, comfortable on the ball and fond of passing the ball out of defence, Benfica’s Ezequiel Garay could well become a mainstay of Manchester United’s defence on par with Ferdinand in his heyday.

Over the last season and a half, Garay has been the perfect partner for Luisão, Benfica’s captain. His performances are notable for his consistency, excellent passing skills and discreet but sure ability to make the right tackle or interception at the right time.

Playing in a Benfica side that favours pressing and playing out from the back, Garay is the chosen centre-back to start plays and the pressing once his team lose the ball. If Manchester United end up buying the player, they’ll gain a great passer of the ball, one that does not shy away from responsibility or intense battles.

There may be a few challenges ahead of course. The Premier League is played at a much higher pace than the Portuguese League, with that in mind, Garay’s speed and physicality could be the factor that makes or breaks his success in England. While he is not one to back down from powerful opponents, he is sometimes vulnerable in that particular department.

With the likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans ready to step into Ferdinand’s boots, how would Garay fit in? Evans in particular now seems ready to take the responsibility of a first team role, but questions regarding his quality and consistency are commonly asked. Based on Garay’s experience, he would take Ferdinand’s position as soon as possible. Evans, Smalling and Jones will continue to be rotated until Vidic’s form begins to stagnate.

If Garay manages to adapt quickly to the Premier League, he will prove a great piece of business. At United, Nemanja Vidic’s no-nonsense style would jell effectively with Garay’s more cultured approach. The only fear for the Old Trafford club is how much money Benfica will ask for, with Real Madrid due 50% of any transfer fee received, and a third party having bought 10% of the player’s contract in September 2011.

Having been priced out of a move for Lucas Moura due to third-party wranglings, Ferguson will be keen to ensure that a sky-high asking price doesn’t kill a vital deal for the club, with the player said to be keen on a move.

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