As always when it comes to the closing stages of a season, we as football fans will always think very quickly to the season ahead, just like managers and players do.
Sport in general is like that, as although people like to look back at the past season, it’s vitally important to move on and think of the future.
Despite this season being a good one for the club what with us being only a point away from securing another Premiership and having a Champions League final against Barcelona to look forward to, there’s one area of the pitch where we do need improving – and that’s the midfield.
Yes I know our midfield played very well in the weekend against Chelsea working as a team to combat the Blues’ strength and tenacity in midfield, but it’s not as good as it could or should be. What Manchester United have been lacking really ever since Roy Keane left is a ‘midfield general’ a player who can grab the game by the scruff of the neck and run the game.
Darren Fletcher to his credit has done well for us since Keano’s departure and at times particularly in matches against Arsenal and Liverpool has really been our ‘rock’ in midfield. But as good as Fletch is, he won’t ever be a ‘general’ in midfield. That’s not a knock on him, as up until his recent injury spell Fleth had become one of our best players.
But I can’t help but get the feeling that we need something more especially in games away to the top Premiership sides. Manchester City have Yaya Toure, Chelsea have Essien/Ramires, Arsenal have Diaby. All those players mentioned are good strong players who do bring a physical prescence to the game, who can all track back and defend as well as get forward to score goals.
It’s unfortunate of course that Owen Hargreaves after a good first season at the club, where he revelled in his role in midfield (as well as right back occasionally) very sadly became hampered by injuries that have ruined not only his club career but international one as well. Owen very quickly became popular at United and his partnerships with Michael Carrick, Anderson and Fletch worked wonders.
It’s very easy to forget that Hargreaves is still only 30 and that if he had not been struck down by his ongoing injury problems, he would probably still be playing regularly for us today.
Getting back on track though, who out there is available for us to sign who could be our ‘General’ in midfield?
In my opinion there are two players off the top of my head who could fullfil this role with flying colours, who would win over the fans and most importantly become a vital member of our staring 11.
Option 1 and probably the man who most United fans would love to see us sign would be Roma’s Daniele De Rossi. Of course over the recent years we’ve played Roma quite abit and have got used to De Rossi’s all-action game-play. He is a player who has the hunger, desire and fight to play for any of Europe’s top clubs and has clear leadership qualities.
There’s no doubt we could afford to buy De Rossi and meet his wage demands, but there are doubts as to whether the move would go ahead. With Roma being taken over by new owners, there’s no doubt they will want to hold onto as many good players as possible to bring the good times back to one of Italian football’s most famous clubs.
Despite the impending-departure of Phillipe Mexes to AC Milan, De Rossi who is Roma’s vice-captain and a local boy may want to stay and be loyal to his team, especially if they can leapfrog Udinese and grab the final Champions League place on offer for finishing fourth. Then again perhaps after being at the club for 11 years, he may want to move. Who Knows?
Option 2 for the role is Lassana Diarra, a player United fans know well from his time at Chelsea, Arsenal and Portsmouth. Diarra has come on leaps and bounds over the last couple of years and after being a bit-part player at Stamford Bridge and The Emirates has played well since moving to the Bernabeu in the spring of 2009.
Whilst not having always been a first choice for Real Madrid, he has played well when selected and has become one of the most respected players in La Liga for his hard-working displays in midfield. There has been much speculation in the media that Diarra is open to a return to the Premiership with us and Liverpool rumoured to be interested in buying.
We would definitely be able to buy Diarra and there’s no doubt that he would settle in at Old Trafford and straight away readjust to the demands of playing in the so-called best league in the world.
With competition fierce at Real, Diarra has often found himself behind the superb Xavi Alonso and Sami Khedira at times so would probably open to a move if our rumoured interest in him is true.
It should be intresting in the off-season to see who we buy. Centre Midfield is such an important position for any team and if we are to continue to do well on all fronts next season, Sir Alex Ferguson does need in my opinion to bring in the ‘General’ once and for all.
By Adam Dennehey – @ADennehey87
Man United keen on signing 2 players on loan to replace Marcus Rashford
Manchester United keen to loan Odion Ighalo and Islam Slimani
Manchester United are keen on signing Odion Ighalo and Islam Slimani on loan to provide cover for the injured Marcus Rashford. (h/t Sky Sports)
Ighalo plays for Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League while Slimani is currently on loan at Monaco from Leicester City.
Both players have done well for their current clubs so far. Ighalo has scored 10 goals in 19 appearances for Shanghai whereas Slimani has registered 7 goals and 7 assists in 14 appearances for Monaco.
Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa are also interested in Slimani (h/t Daily Star).
Ighalo has a better record out of the two in the Premier League. With the Chinese Super League likely to be indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus epidemic gripping the nation, it remains to be seen if the player will be allowed to travel.
Low-key but effective?
The injury to Marcus Rashford has left United without a reliable striker upfront. United have played both Liverpool and Burnley since the striker’s injury and have failed to hit the net in both games.
Given the nature of the January transfer window, it makes sense for the club to pursue a loan deal for an established forward until the summer.
Ighalo and Slimani are in their 30s but both players are physically imposing and are capable of playing as a target man upfront.
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United are currently 5th in the table with 14 games left to go. We face Chelsea in the league in February, which will give us a chance to close the gap on a top-four spot.
Transfer blow for Man United as £13m difference could stop the deal for Portugese star
Bruno Fernandes transfer to Manchester United at the risk of collapse
The transfer of Portuguese star Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon is at the risk of collapse with Sporting Lisbon holding out for £55million, according to Portuguese station TVI24 (h/t Metro).
The 25-year-old midfielder has informed the Portuguese club of his wish to move to Old Trafford and has already agreed on personal terms with United. Sporting are unhappy with United’s opening offer of £42m, which is £13m short of the Portuguese club’s expectation.
United’s offer contains a number of add-on clauses that can eventually take the deal to £60million. Sporting, however, deem the conditions improbable and are seeking a greater fee upfront.
Sporting are unwilling to drop their asking price as United have failed to include a player in exchange as a part of the deal.
The Portuguese side were willing to accept a lower fee had a player been included. However, neither Andreas Pereira or Marcos Rojo were willing to move to the Portuguese Primeira Liga.
Fernandes played in the 2-0 loss to arch-rivals Benfica in what could be the player’s last match for Sporting.
The Portuguese club have demanded a minimum of £55.3million as a guaranteed payment. They also expect United to include bonuses that are more achievable.
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Sporting will have to pay 50% of the sell-on fee to Fernandes’ previous club Sampdoria and will look to get as much as they can from United.
Man Utd agree on contract terms with midfielder who could be signed for £51m
Manchester United have reportedly agreed on terms with Bruno Fernandes
Manchester United have reportedly agreed on terms with Portuguese star Bruno Fernandes. (h/t Sun)
The 25-year-old has played 25 times for Sporting this season and has scored 13 goals and 10 assists. (h/t Whoscored)
United were to make their first formal offer for the player. It is being reported now that the deal has already been agreed upon. (h/t Sun)
It’s claimed that Fernandes has been offered a deal nearing £100,000-a-week at United.
The signing of the Sporting skipper should provide the United midfield with numbers and an attacking impetus.
The midfielder has an £85million release clause in his contract but Old Trafford bosses have been working to drive the price down. The club were also open to offering two players to bring the price down. (h/t Sun)
Fernandes was part of the Portuguese squad that won the UEFA Nations League in 2019.
He has won 19 caps for the Portuguese national side and has scored 2 goals since making his debut in 2017.
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The Red Devils trail 3-1 from the first leg as they aim to get to their first final under Ole Gunnar Solksjaer.
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Ashley Young rejects one-year contract extension offer
Veteran star Ashley Young has rejected a one-year extension on his contract at Manchester United. (h/t Sky Sports)
The 34-year-old’s contract at United expires at the end of the season and the player looks likely to leave in the summer. Inter Milan are said to be interested in securing Young’s services (h/t Sky Sports).
Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is keen to keep the player at Old Trafford. Young is one of the leaders in the United dressing room and has the versatility to play in multiple positions.
Antonio Conte has been a long term admirer of Young and even tried to sign him when he was at Chelsea. Conte is ready to offer the play an 18-month contract at Inter with a considerable pay rise.
Young joined United in the summer of 2011 and has gone on to make 261 appearances for the English giants.
He took over as captain from Antonio Valencia at the beginning of this season.
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Young is keen on moving to Inter immediately rather than waiting for the summer (h/t Daily Mail). He has been left angered by United’s refusal to sanction the deal in January.
United are in the midst of an injury crisis and losing Young would deal a harsh blow to whatever little chances we have this season.