Manchester United can’t afford to repeat Jack Grealish mistake with summer transfer priority – Liam Wood

Jack Grealish might not yet have conjured up his swashbuckling best at Manchester City – but each sighting of him in blue should act as a warning sign to neighbors Manchester United.

Let’s rewind to early 2020.

Covid-19 had yet to leave its devastating mark and United – with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at the wheel – were steering in a forward direction having splashed out £56.7million on Bruno Fernandes.

Even the most optimistic observer wouldn’t have been able to predict the staggering impact he made.

Indeed, after years of overspending on players who simply did not live up to their price tag, the Portugal sensation remains a ‘bargain’ in the modern sense. How the market has changed.

Despite landing Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon, key figures in the boardroom maintained interest in Grealish until, leading up to the 2020/2021 season, they decided that £80million was too much and the popular playmaker signed a new five-year contract with Aston Villa.

Twelve months later, those terms were breached and City broke the nine-figure barrier for him.

You can argue about how much players ought to be worth, but the only valuation that matters is the one current clubs stump up. As such, big hitters such as City and United will be held to ransom – or ultimately have to play the waiting game in order to get their target(s).

Depending on which side of the fence you sit on, missing out on Grealish was a mistake or blessing for United.

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Before his Euro 2020 heroics with England, the floppy-haired maverick enjoyed his best campaign for Villa – scoring six Premier League goals and providing 12 assists in 26 outings. He has yet to replicate those numbers with City, but a season of bedding in could be the foundation for him to shine long-term at the Etihad Stadium.

His return last term might, perhaps, have been the difference for United to end their trophy hoodoo.

Jack Grealish and Declan Rice embrace on England duty at Euro 2020.

Of course, shelling out £80million would have raised eyebrows, but key figures in the boardroom still spent half of that on Donny van de Beek and handed him only four starts. Grealish would have been ready-made and, in turn, could have relieved some pressure from an overworked Marcus Rashford.

Hindsight, as they say, is a wonderful thing.

On the flip side, you could point to Grealish’s relative ‘struggles’ this season and say United were vindicated.

Even if they were, they simply can’t afford to settle for second best next time around.

Should he move on next summer, Declan Rice might command an even higher fee than Grealish – but the problem United have in central midfield could be worked out by someone who has absolutely no interest in football. It really is that obvious and, for the greater good, United must not be put off by hardball.

Albeit in humble surroundings at Aggborough, against non-league Kidderminster, it was Rice who saved West Ham from, quite possibly, the biggest shock in FA Cup history on Saturday afternoon.

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How much is Rice worth? Have your say in the comments section below.

That alone will not be a defining factor in his potential worth to United, but his willingness to roll his sleeves up and take action/responsibility was magnified by the Old Trafford giants crashing out less than 24 hours prior.

Two years on from their Grealish mistake, United can’t afford a repeat or they, in turn, might open the door for City to swoop in and steal another march in their ongoing Premier League domination.

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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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