According to reports, two big pieces of transfer business could be happening at Manchester United in the summer that will completely change the club’s midfield looks.
The first is that Paul Pogba is likely to leave on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season, marking the end of what has been a tumultuous second spell at the club for the Frenchman. The second is that the club is likely to pursue a deal for West Ham United defensive midfielder Declan Rice.
United have needed a defensive midfielder since last summer but failed to bring one in, but they are likely to address that in this window, and Rice is their top target.
But there is fear among United fans that we have seen this scenario before where the club has looked to bring a big name in as another leaves and think that addresses the latter’s absence.
Rice will likely cost around £80-100 million if West Ham doesn’t up the price even more after another stellar season from the English midfielder. Still, if he is signed, it is necessary to sign a position we need and should not be related to the situation with Pogba at all.
If Pogba leaves, United will have to address that with another signing who matches the profile of what the midfielder brings to the side: an unmatched passing ability, a high level of ball progression, and safety in possession.
While Rice is good on the ball, his range of passing is limited, and his ball progression comes more from carrying the ball, which would be limited if United want to play him as the lone six in a 4-3-3.
Fabian Ruiz from Napoli and Ismael Bennacer from AC Milan are both midfielders who could offer a similar skill set to what United need in midfield if Pogba leaves and maybe an even better fit for the side than Pogba was.
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Overall this is where Ralf Rangnick needs to shine and update United’s scouting methods because too many times we have seen players targeted for their name and standing within the game, and then the club has tried to figure out how they fit into the side after the fact .
Under Rangnick’s guidance, United’s scouting methods will hopefully be more data-driven and focus on identifying the problem areas and the team’s style of play and then choosing targets who would fit that mold to try and be more successful in the market.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.