With United conceding two late goals to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory against Everton on Sunday, it seemed clear that all was not rosy in the Old Trafford defense. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson talked up Jonny Evans as the best defender in England on Saturday, but his performance a day later made that pronouncement seem rather premature.
With Nemanja Vidic injured and Rio Ferdinand's legs waning there is plenty of uncertainty concerning the nature of United's central defensive partnership. Yet there are also plenty of options; with Evans, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all competing to be the future defensive rock.
However it is not inconceivable that Ferguson will seek experienced reinforcement in the summer. To that end, reports emerged yesterday that the club were considering a €30 million ($39m) move for Real Madrid defender Pepe, according to Record, as reported by Tribal Football.
At this stage it is extremely difficult to give too much credence to this story. For one, it goes against United's stated transfer policy of not spending heavily on players of the age of 27. Pepe is 29. While it would also be a major surprise if Real Madrid were interested in selling a player who has been an integral part of their defense this season.
The temperamental Portuguese is unquestionably blessed with excellent defensive skills, though has often courted controversy for some over-exuberant behavior. In five years at the Bernabeu the former Porto player has been sent off six times.
Perhaps an equally unlikely story emerging from the Manchester United rumor mill is a report that the Red Devils are plotting a £5 million ($8m) move for Everton left-back Leighton Baines, according to the Daily Mail.
Baines has been in terrific form for the past two years, as recognized by his naming in the PFA Team of the Year. But the idea that Everton would sell one of its star assets for as little as is being claimed seems incredibly far-fetched. Though--as the report points out--the Toffees' finances are not the best, they still manage to pay for close to $ 9 million Nikica Jelavic in January and held out for a reasonable $16 million for Mikel Arteta last August.
United's interest in Baines would also come as a surprise. Patrice Evra has not had his finest season at Old Trafford, but it is far likelier that Ferguson will look to bring in a back-up rather than replacement for the Frenchman in the summer.
A point which makes the Mail's linking of United to Valencia left-back Jordi Alba also seem unlikely.
Speculation has been rife in recent weeks linking United with every number three on the continent, much of which should be taken with the customary handful of salt. But the rumored interest in the less high profile Bryan Ovideo and Guilherme Siqueira would seem to be more realistic.