Man Utd and 'pushing' for £100m defender as Erik ten Hag preference explained

Erik ten Hag is thought to want multiple defensive additions at Manchester United this summer.
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Manchester United are one of two Premier League teams 'pushing more than most' for Jarrad Branthwaite with reports suggesting Erik ten Hag is keen to bring in two young centre-backs in the summer.

Branthwaite is on the radar of several top clubs amid what has been an excellent season at Everton. The 21-year-old has been ever-present alongside the more experienced James Tarkowski in a defence that has only conceded more goals than Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal.

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Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid are thought to have made initial enquiries about Branthwaite but The Daily Mail names United and Premier League rivals Tottenham as the front-runners. The pair are said to be 'making the most concerted effort' to scope out Everton's stance.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe saw his investment in United approved by the Premier League this week and is expected to focus on bringing in homegrown talent, once he takes control of footballing operations. Experience in the Premier League will make the adjustment period far easier and Branthwaite is proving more than capable in the top-flight.

United are thought to be keeping tabs on a number of central defenders - namely Jean-Clair Todibo, Leny Yoro and Edmond Tapsoba - but Branthwaite's homegrown status, plus the fact he is left-footed, puts him high up on Ten Hag's list of options.

United have been left vulnerable on more than one occasion this season amid injury issues for Lisandro Martinez, with Ten Hag keen to play left-footed defenders on their natural side but short of cover. Martinez suffered knee ligament damage against West Ham earlier this month and will be out until around April.

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The decision to end Sergio Reguilon's loan spell means Luke Shaw is needed at left-back, and a natural back-up would be preferred anyway, should a competent option be available. Ten Hag is also keen to lower the age profile in defence, with Jonny Evans and Raphael Varane, 36 and 30 respectively, set to leave as free agents this summer.

Everton's negotiating position will rest largely on what league they are in come summer. The Toffees are in a relegation battle after being docked 10 points for breaching the Premier League's profitability and sustainability rules. Price-tags have varied in reports but have been cited as high as £100million.