Kalvin Phillips can help Manchester United unleash a new formation next season


Earlier this week, the Manchester Evening News revealed that Manchester United were working on a deal to sign Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips. It’s no secret that bringing in at least one new defensive midfielder has been a priority for the club some time.

United have previously looked to rectify the problem by showing an interest in the likes of Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham, although at present it seems as though neither will be realistically attainable this summer. West Ham would look for a fee far north of £120million, while Erling Haaland’s expected summer move would likely see Borussia Dortmund dig their heels in over his English team-mate.

Phillips, though, is believed to be attainable. He is contracted to Leeds until 2024, yet discussions over a renewal have become protracted, which means the Yorkshire club might need to cash in this summer or risk losing him for a reduced fee next year when he will have only 12 months left on his current deal.

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In terms of a profile, Phillips ticks many boxes for United. His role for Leeds, sitting ahead of the defence, means that he’s not a headliner-grabber in terms of goals or assists, however, he’s quick and extremely mobile, which makes him a master at pressing and breaking up opposition attacks in the middle of the pitch.

He may only stand at 5ft10in, yet he’s aggressive and tenacious. That’s a point captured by the fact that only three players across the Premier League who have played over 1000 minutes can better his average (13.2 per 90) in terms of defensive pressures made in the middle third of the pitch – although his success rate in those pressures betters all three.

It’s equally impressive not only how quickly he can stop opponents’ attacks, but also the speed at which he can then launch them the other way. He’s a quick thinker, and when the ball is won back, the 24-year-old is already looking forward to see if he can fire passes into team-mates who can punish an unsettled defensive line.

An example of this is below when against Norwich earlier in the season, Phillips won the ball back in the middle of the pitch and quickly fired a pass into the feet of teammate Rodrigo who then hit a great shot into the bottom corner of the net.



Phillips wins the ball and quickly feeds it into his teammate

When his team are in possession, Phillips has excellent movement and tactical awareness meaning he often plays a key role in Leeds’ build-up play. He’ll regularly make multiple movements across the pitch, constantly searching for spaces in which he can evade markers, receive the ball, turn and then break lines with accurate forward passes.

The combative midfielder can just about do everything, which is a big reason why he’s trusted to play as a lone No.6 in Leeds’ system. At United, there’s usually a double pivot needed as the current crop of midfielders aren’t considered equipped enough to play such a demanding role without support. This has a restrictive impact on things such as what formations the team can play.

Phillips would open more doors in this regard, and he would certainly represent an upgrade on the current midfielders already at the club.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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