Kim Min-Jae vs Axel Disasi: Which defender should Manchester United sign? – Man United News And Transfer News

A striker may be first on Manchester United’s summer shopping list, and a midfielder may be a close second, but a new recruit in central defence is looking likely as Erik ten Hag sets out to retool his squad for next season. Reports in Italy have claimed that Kim Min-Jae has said his goodbyes, booked his plane, and had the movers round. In France, it is believed that Axel Disasi is on the verge of a transfer to Old Trafford.

Even Sky Sports reporter Dharmesh Sheth has been in on the act, earlier tweeting that Man United “have made it clear to Kim Min-Jae’s camp they are interested in signing him,” while also saying that Disasi “wants to join United.”

But Man United are highly unlikely to be signing two new centre back. In fact, as it stands they are overstocked in that department. Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez have forged a tremendous partnership, while Victor Lindelof has convinced Ten Hag of his credentials, with a potential new contract even on the horizon.

That leaves Harry Maguire. The manager would probably be okay with keeping him around as fourth choice (or fifth, if left back Luke Shaw available to move into the middle), but the club captain will need to move on to keep his long term international career alive. It has been reported that Maguire’s intention is to stay at Old Trafford, but it is difficult to see how his peculiar situation at the club can continue.

If he does move, that leaves an opening for one of Kim or Disasi to come into the squad. The former has a £45m release clause, while the latter is thought to be available at a lower price with a spread cost. In all likelihood, United will more or less break even swapping Maguire for either player. So which one should Ten Hag sign?

The player with the higher standing in the game is undoubtedly Kim Min-Jae. He has just helped Napoli to their first Scudetto in over three decades, earning the Defender of the Season award in the process. His proactive style and excellent combination of pace and strength has made him the nightmare of forwards all over Europe – a fine achievement given he has only been in Italy for around twelve months.

He is almost literally peerless in matters of one-on-one defending ranking in the top 1% of all central defenders across Europe’s ‘Big 5’ leagues for percentage of dribblers tackled (88.6%) and for the infrequency of losing a challenge (just 0.09 per 90 minutes). If Erik ten Hag wants a defender who can kill opposition counterattacks or mark dangerous attackers out of the match, Kim is the guy, hands down.

Axel Disasi, while also quick and strong, does not have much of a reply to Kim’s defensive numbers – few in world football do. But there are a number of reasons why Manchester United might just consider him to be the better fit. The Frenchman has been a bright spark in an otherwise disappointing campaign for AS Monaco, earning himself a call up to the Qatar World Cup, where he showcased his versatility by playing at right back in a couple of matches – the final being one of them.

While Ten Hag certainly does appreciate multi-functional players, that versatility would not be a strong argument for opting for Disasi. What the Ligue 1 star does have in his favour, however, is what he does with the ball.

Make no mistake, Kim Min-Jae is no slouch is this regard – he is a solid bedrock on which Napoli build their considered, possession-based attacks with accurate passing off either foot. He ranks in the 88th percentile of Big-League centre backs in Europe for both progressive carries and progressive passes. But Disasi is genuinely world class in his ability to turn defence into attack from his position, ranking in the 96th percentile in both metrics. The Frenchman can operate as something of a playmaker from the back, disrupting the opposition press with a combination of good dribbling and incisive passing.

Given that United have struggled to play out of defence – particularly in the absence of Lisandro Martinez, who is the primary ball-player in the backline – it would make some sense for Ten Hag to place added focus on how his defensive targets can operate in possession. And a quick look at the Kim and Disasi’s SmartScout style ratings only highlights their difference in that regard.

Disasi is the far more likely of the two to dribble out from the back and launch a ball towards goal, whereas Kim is all about keeping the ball first and foremost, as demonstrated by his high Link-Up volume – a measure of how often he favours a pass that does not bring the ball ten or more metres towards the opposition goal.

That is also reflected in the gulf between the Attacking Output ratings of both players, with Disasi’s contributions more likely to take his team towards a goalscoring chance. The rating are flipped when it comes to Ball Retention scores, although that is partly due to the stylistic preferences of the managers they played for last season.

The biggest positive in signing Disasi over Kim is probably the most obvious one. Lisandro Martinez has the left centre-back position locked down after a tremendous debut season, with Lindelof making the most of his two-footedness while covering him. It would appear that – should a centre back be coming in, it will be to cover and eventually overtake Varane, in the right-sided spot.

Almost all of Kim’s minutes this season have come playing on the left side of a defensive pairing, where Disasi has had his on the right. It is possible that Ten Hag would be looking at the France international as a player who could slot straight into a rotation with Varane, more as an understudy at first, before eventually taking over. In Kim’s case, his status and wage would almost demand that he come in as an automatic starter, for a position slightly different to the one he has enjoyed such success in

Overall the South Korean is clearly the better player, but there are some reasons to believe that Disasi might be a slightly better fit in the long run. Certainly, should Manchester United end up with either, it will add to the quality in the squad.

Statistic taken from FBref; please see Scout Reports for Kim Min-Jae and Axel Disasi)

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