Manchester United’s hunt for Nemanja Matic seems to have hit a roadblock. The Hard Tackle takes a look at four alternative options for the Red Devils
Jose Mourinho has been scouring for a midfielder to add to the squad – a search that has left him frustrated at times this summer.
“I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t know. Ed is in control. Our relation is good and I just wait for good news — and he knows that for me good news is to have the players, or in this case maybe just the player as soon as possible because to work together with the team is really, really important.”
“I’m happy with my squad, but I would like to have two more players — I never hide that. One player would be a midfield player that gives me more options, more balance to the team, our needs.”
These comments were recently made by Manchester United manager, as he made it clear that he has categorically asked Ed Woodward to sign a midfielder for his squad this summer. And for good reason.
The player who looked set to be that solution for him was Nemanja Matic, with Mourinho set to land a player he knows so well from his second spell as the Chelsea boss.
But, the relationship between Manchester United and Chelsea has soured following the Romelu Lukaku’s move to Old Trafford earlier this month. And so, Chelsea are refusing to let the player leave for their Premier League rivals.
As Manchester United look set to turn their attention elsewhere in search of a midfield reinforcement, The Hard Tackle takes a look at four alternatives who Manchester United could target in Matic’s stead.
Perhaps the best option in front of Mourinho, Fabinho is a player who can potentially fit in seamlessly in the style of play that the Portuguese manager has implemented at Manchester United. The versatile Brazilian can play equally adeptly in different positions on the park.
But, it is his ability to play as a holding midfielder that has come to the fore at Monaco, particularly last season when he was one of the unsung heroes for his team. While the attacking players in Leonardo Jardim’s side stole the limelight for their fearless brand of football, it was Fabinho who acted as the enabler.
His numbers are quite impressive to say the least with the player winning 77 tackles and 54 interceptions last season. Moreover, Fabinho also makes his fair share of contribution to the team’s cause. 12 goals and 6 assists in addition to creating 33 chances is testament to that – commendable numbers for a holding midfielder.
Most importantly, the player’s willingness to sit back and do the boring job will allow Herrera and Pogba to express themselves in more advanced positions, while also allowing the full-backs to bombard forward and contribute to Manchester United’s attacking pursuits.
However, Manchester United have a potential roadblock in front of them, with Monaco unwilling to sell any more players having already parted ways with three of their most instrumental figures from last season. But, the right bid may just tempt the French champions to let go of Fabinho and it remains to be seen if that is the case.
Another out-and-out defensive midfielder in our list. William Carvalho has been a revelation for Sporting Lisbon ever since he made his senior debut for the Portuguese giants in 2013, having progressed through the ranks at his boyhood club.
An ever present at the centre of the park for Lisbon, Carvalho is known for his no-nonsense attitude that helps him keep things tight in front of his side’s defensive unit. His numbers are quite impressive as well as he made 67 tackles and 54 interceptions successfully in league and Europe last season.
Like Fabinho, Carvalho’s hard tackling, solid style of play is an ideal complement for Herrera and Pogba. In particular, Pogba will benefit a great deal from Carvalho’s presence at the heart of midfield as he would have to worry less about his defensive duties with the Portuguese midfielder and Herrera doing all the dirty work.
However, Manchester United are yet to be linked with a concrete interest for the 25-year-old this summer, and it remains to be seen if Mourinho turns his attention towards his compatriot after facing disappointment in pursuit of Matic.
A player who Manchester United scouts are well versed with and a player Jose Mourinho loathed on missing out. The Red Devils were in hot pursuit of Sanches last summer, and were widely reported as the favourites for him before Bayern Munich swooped in and signed the talented youngster.
His time at the Allianz Arena, though, has been nothing short of disastrous.
The 19-year-old managed to make a mere 25 appearances in all competitions for the Bavarian giants, with a large portion of his outings coming from the bench. His struggles can also be indicated by the fact that Sanches is yet to find the back of the net or provide an assist as a Bayern Munich player.
With things suddenly going pear-shaped for the youngster, rumours have been rife about his future with Bayern, with reports claiming that he could be set to leave the Bundesliga club after just one season. Manager Carlo Ancelotti, however, has insisted that the player is not going anywhere this summer.
Nevertheless, the player has been endlessly linked with Manchester United once again, with Mourinho admittedly a huge fan of his talent. While he may not be a defensive midfielder, the powerhouse Portugal international’s addition could still help Jose Mourinho add balance to his squad.
Ander Herrera has shown a penchant for doing well as a holding midfielder, and so, Sanches could act as a box-t0-box midfielder, allowing Pogba to advance even further forward to link up with the attacking players. A move for Sanches could, therefore, be in the pipeline for Manchester United.
Here’s an option that could leave a few surprised, and it comes from within Mourinho’s squad. Andreas Pereira is one of the most highly-rated players to have emerged out of the Manchester United academy in recent years, with many hailing him to be the next big thing at the club.
However, having made the senior grade for the Red Devils in 2014, the young Brazilian is yet to become a regular member of the first-team setup at Old Trafford. While there’s no denying the bundle of talent that the player possesses, it is believed that he still is a big work-in-progress.
Therefore, with the aim of grooming him further, Pereira was sent out on a season-long loan spell to Granada in 2016/17. In fact, the 21-year-old ended up being the only real shining light for a side that finished rock bottom in La Liga last season to tumble into the Segunda Division.
Back at Manchester United now, and Pereira has been nothing short of impressive in the club’s pre-season tour to the US. The young midfielder has appeared in each of the Red Devils’ first four matches, and has been deployed in a deeper role by Mourinho so far.
Pereira played the majority of last season in the same position, and it is clear to see that he has learnt a great deal, with his distribution being top notch. And while his tackling can do with a bit of work, in Michael Carrick he has the perfect mentor to continue developing as a regista.
Perhaps, Carrick’s true replacement could be in Mourinho’s squad itself, and should Pereira continue playing like he has so far, he could make his manager a fan of his abilities.