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Erik ten Hag would have loved what he saw if he tuned into Liverpool’s 2-0 win against Everton in the Merseyside derby on Saturday afternoon. Liverpool returned to winning ways in the Premier League through a Mohamed Salah brace, but Sean Dyche will have been delighted with a handful of his players’ performances.
One standout Everton star was Jarrad Branthwaite, who partnered James Tarkowski at the heart of the visitors’ defence.
During TNT Sports’ coverage, commentator Darren Fletcher hailed Branthwaite for his exploits on enemy lines, and Ally McCoist agreed with his sentiments.
“There are a few Everton players who have had huge games, and he’s one of them,” Fletcher said. “Oh, 100 per cent,” McCoist added.
The 21-year-old made eight clearances, three interceptions, two tackles and a block as Everton kept Liverpool at bay until conceding a 75th-minute penalty.
He also won three of his five duels and created a chance, making it clear why Ten Hag is reportedly one of his many admirers.
According to the Mail, United could be in the market for a new centre-back in the January transfer window, with the position causing Ten Hag problems this season.
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Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez have suffered injury woes, while Harry Maguire will be strongly linked with an exit again after almost leaving in a £30million deal during the summer.
The report claims that Branthwaite is on Ten Hag’s shortlist, joining Antonio Silva and Jean-Claire Todibo, among others.
Branthwaite committed his long-term future at Goodison Park earlier this month, penning a new contract until 2027.
But that is unlikely to faze United if they decide to intensify their interest in the left-sided centre-half during the winter transfer window.
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A centre-back is expected to be a priority for Ten Hag in his third summer as United manager, given his prominent issues in the area this term.
United’s defensive injury woes continued against Sheffield United on Saturday night, fielding a second-string backline of Diogo Dalot, Maguire, Jonny Evans and Victor Lindelof.
Ten Hag is reportedly keen to add a left-sided player to provide Martinez with competition and a right-sided option to replace Maguire and act as Varane’s long-term replacement at Old Trafford.
Branthwaite could fit the mould if he continues his impressive trajectory at Everton in the coming months, but Dyche will also view him as the present and future of his backline.
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