Jose Mourinho is preparing to overhaul his Manchester United defence this summer with Phil Jones and Chris Smalling facing the axe at Old Trafford.
The pair have failed to impress throughout the season for United, with Smalling particularly coming in for criticism following the 1-0 defeat by Newcastle on Sunday.
The 28-year-old was booked for a dive and the resulting free-kick led to Matt Ritchie’s goal which consigned United to defeat.
Jones produced an underwhelming display in United’s 2-0 loss to Tottenham at Wembley earlier this month.
He netted an own goal for Tottenham’s second, with Mourinho’s description of the finish as ‘an amazing goal Harry Kane would love to score’ far from supportive.
Yet while Mourinho has decided his defence needs strengthening, United actually have the best goals-against record in the Premier League this season.
They have only conceded 19 times – runaway leaders Manchester City have let in 20.
And that is despite first-choice central defender Eric Bailly being out injured since November.
But England Women manager and former United player Phil Neville believes that record comes in spite of Jones and Smalling.
‘Speaking on Match of the Day 2 on Sunday, Neville said: ‘They have got the best defensive record because they have the best goalkeeper in the world in David de Gea and (Nemanja) Matic out in front who protects them really well.
‘But the last two away games (against Tottenham and Newcastle), Smalling and Jones have been a disaster.
‘Against Dele Alli and Harry Kane, they got bullied. Against Newcastle did they make many mistakes, no, but they created a nervousness and a tension.’
Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane and Leicester centre-half Harry Maguire are names that feature on a shortlist of replacements.
Mourinho worked with France international Varane for the final two seasons of his three-year tenure at Madrid, from 2011 until 2013.
Maguire has been in impressive form throughout the season at Leicester and won his first England cap, against Lithuania in World Cup qualifying last October.