The task of improving Manchester United’s midfield this summer promises to be an enormous one for new manager Erik ten Hag.
United’s midfield, which was at fault in the build-up to Wilfried Zaha’s winner for Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Sunday, has been one of the most criticized areas in the club’s demise this season, and the importance of it being corrected this summer cannot be underestimated. Whether it be Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic, Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba or Fred, United have not been strong enough at any stage in the center of the pitch this term.
It has frequently dominated post-match debriefs and, at times, left supporters almost on their knees, begging the club to invest in fresh blood for that particular area of the squad this summer. United, as reported by the Manchester Evening Newsare weighing up a move for Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong and are working on a deal to sign Kalvin Phillips from Leeds United.
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Considering this summer will see United needing several new additions, the likelihood of both De Jong and Phillips checking in at Old Trafford is slim. Both players will command huge fees and could blow United’s budget in an instant.
Therefore, it begs one question: have United missed a trick by not turning to Boubacar Kamara? The Frenchman, on Monday, was confirmed as an Aston Villa player, with the Midlands outfit signing the Frenchman on a five-year deal ahead of his contract expiring at Marseille this summer.
Although United never registered a firm interest in the 22-year-old, he was often the subject of attention from United fans on social media. They had spotted his good work at Marseille and a number of them pinpointed him as a signing the club ought to try and get over the line, suggesting that his youthfulness, potential and performances this season fit the bill for what Ten Hag might look to implement thissummer.
As well as that, he was also available on a free transfer. Many thought it was too good an opportunity to miss.
However, Kamara has now put pen to paper on a long-term deal at Villa Park, meaning Steven Gerrard has secured the services of a highly-rated midfielder who has shone brightly in Ligue 1 this season, without the need for the Villa board to shell out on a transfer fee. Time will tell, but it has the potential to be a shrewd addition for the former Liverpool captain.
United are in desperate need of at least one defensive-minded midfielder this summer and someone of Kamara’s mold could have been just the ticket, especially when the club needs to invest money in other areas of the squad. Although he is only 22 and has a lot more to give, the Frenchman has already carried the responsibility of being captain at Marseille, an achievement that should not go unnoticed for a player so young.
It highlights strong leadership skills, something United have sorely missed this season. As well as that, Kamara, who made 34 Ligue 1 appearances for Marseille this term, cemented himself as one of the best defensive-midfielders in France, producing an average of 1.4 interceptions, two tackles, 1.2 clearances and 0.7 key passes per game. He also boasted a pass success rating of 90.6 per cent.
Admittedly, the Premier League is a lot more intense and played at a higher speed than what Ligue 1 is, but Kamara produced the goods on a regular basis, highlighting why Villa were so keen to lay their hands on him. He has the potential to develop into an even bigger star and Villa could be rubbing their hands together in years to come if his career in England continues on its current trajectory.
With so many areas of United’s squad needing strengthening, signing a player who could have addressed their midfield issues without the club having to spend a penny would have allowed them to spend their cash elsewhere. That option has now been taken off the table and United may be forced to spend big if they’re to finally fix their creaking midfield.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.