Should van Gaal have given this £8m-rated defender a shock return to Manchester United?

Ryan Shawcross

Manchester United were linked with a move £8m-rated Stoke City defender Ryan Shawcross on deadlined day - should they have signed him?

United completed their summer spending with the signing of Radamel Falcao and Daley Blind on deadline day, with the duo joining Ander Herrera, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo and Angel Di Maria at Old Trafford as Louis van Gaal took his summer spending to well over £150m.

Despite that huge outlay on new signings, the club still haven't really solved their crippling defensive options - even with the arrival of Rojo from Sporting Lisbon. Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans have all looked shaky in van Gaal's three-man back line, and whilst youngster Tyler Blackett has looked promising, a more established centre back was needed at Old Trafford.

The likes of Mats Hummels and Mehdi Benatia were linked with big money moves over the summer months, but van Gaal decided to put most of his money towards strengthening the midfield and attacking areas of his team - which looks like being an ill advised-plan given United's woes there so far this season.

As deadline day got started, rumours began to link United with a shock move to bring Ryan Shawcross back to the club from Stoke City. The England international left United in 2007 to join the Potters on loan before completing a pemanent move in January 2008. Since then, Shawcross has made almost 300 appearances for Stoke, establishing himself as one of the most solid centre backs in the Premier League.

The 26-year-old, who was also linked with Everton on Monday, is rated at around £8m, but would he have been an improvement on United's current crop of defenders? Let's look at the stats...

  TeamPosWon TackleTotal ClearanceHead ClearanceInterceptionTotal PassAccurate PassAppsMins
Phil Jones Man Utd DF 44 149 104 55 1,077 951 26 2,174
Chris Smalling Man Utd DF 30 179 123 27 987 816 25 1,938
Ryan Shawcross Stoke DF 23 317 194 37 1,272 946 37 3,292
Jonny Evans Man Utd DF 17 133 83 25 805 703 17 1,377

The first stat shows the tackles made by each player; Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Jonny Evans and Ryan Shawcross in last season's Premier League - with the added caveat that Shawcross played far more than the other three. Shawcross doesn't excel in this category, but when it comes to clearances, he's exceptional. His 317 clearances for Stoke last season were more than Smalling and Evans combined - proving that Shawcross is an excellent 'stopper'.

The same follows with his headed clearances, using 6ft 3in frame to dominate in the air with 194 headed clearances - more than Evans and Jones combined. His aerial prowess also makes him a danger in front of goal, which has already been seen this season with his goal against Hull City.

Shawcross ranks second when it comes to interceptions, but the question most people will be asking is whether he has the technical ability to play in van Gaal's defence. With little pace, Shawcross shouldn't be used as a right or left sided centre back, but in the middle he could be effective. Last season, Shawcross played more passes than Jones, Smalling or Evans as he transitioned well into Mark Hughes' new style of play at the Britannia Stadium, but actual completed the lowest percentage of the five.

That maybe shows that van Gaal was right not to pursue Shawcross, but for £8m, he would have been an economically sound signing who would've solidified the United defence for some time yet. He may not be the big name signing that United fans have wanted, but would've been a short-term solution for United's so far porous back line.

Should United have pursued Shawcross?

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch