News From Manchester: Erik ten Hag could hand Pau Torres dream Man United shirt number with summer transfer decision

Although midfield remains the priority position for Ten Hag to strengthen in his first transfer window as United boss, centre-back has emerged as another which needs reinforcements. This is despite the club having spent nearly 200million on its five options there at present.

United endured a disastrous season as they registered their lowest-ever Premier League points tally of a measly 58 and an equally embarrassing goal difference of zero. Even the arrival of four-time Champions League winner Raphael Varane last summer failed to fix the side's defensive frailties, with the Frenchman having a difficult debut season in England.

Harry Maguire had an especially tough campaign as his form nosedived after his heroics for England at Euro 2020 and, while putting in some decent displays, Victor Lindelof continued to prove that he's unlikely to be a long-term solution. United's other two senior centre-backs, Jones and Eric Bailly, are now periphery figures.

Despite bizarrely being given a new long-term contract running until 2024 just last year, Bailly featured a mere seven times in the campaign. The Ivorian again spent much of the year on the sidelines and failed to impress in any of his rare appearances.

Jones' season had a much happier story as he made a long-awaited return to action after two years of injury hell, putting in a good display in his first match back against Wolves. The 30-year-old went on to make a further five appearances but he may be better off looking to resurrect his career elsewhere next season.

Should Jones depart, it would free up the No.4 shirt at United for the first time in 11 years, which may be appealing to Torres.

United are prepared to allow both Bailly and Jones to leave the club this summer which has further increased the need for a new centre-back. While versatile starlet Jurrien Timber, a player Ten Hag knows well from the time they enjoyed together at Ajax, is wanted by supporters, MEN Sport understands that the club have revived their interest in Torres.

United have admired Villarreal's star defender for some time and tracked him intently last summer before eventually recruiting Varane. A lack of Champions League football may hinder any deal but it's understood that Torres still has a release clause in his contract in the region of 60million (51m).

Aside from a loan spell at Malaga in 2018/19, Torres has spent the entirety of his career at his hometown club and has worn the No.4 jersey since being promoted to the Yellow Submarine's senior side. The 25-year-old has also donned the number on multiple occasions for Spain, including in the 2020 Olympics, so it's clearly a number he favours.

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