The Hard Tackle brings you all the happenings in and around Old Trafford on the 10th of January.
Manchester United take on Hull City in the first leg of their EFL Cup semi-final later today. The Red Devils have been in fine form in the competition as they can boast of key wins against rivals Manchester City and Premier League outfit West Ham United.
As it has been the case in the past, the Manchester outfit have injury woes, especially in defence, which could see the duo of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling start in the cup tie.
Sir Alex Ferguson, who was at the helm for a staggering 26 years at Old Trafford, sang the praises of the English duo ahead of their match against Hull. Due to the absence of Eric Bailly and with Marcos Rojo unlikely to be risked, Jones and Smalling are the expected pair to begin the EFL Cup tie.
With the transfer season fast and running, numerous reports have emerged linking Manchester United to a number of promising players across Europe. The first name on the list is that of Ivan Perisic.
Currently plying his trade with Serie A giants Inter Milan, Perisic has emerged as a shock transfer for the Red Devils. Manager Jose Mourinho is reportedly a keen admirer of the Croatia international and is intent on working with him at Old Trafford.
At 27 years of age, Perisic is likely to be at the peak of his career but may slow down within a couple of seasons. Currently, Mourinho has a number of attacking options, and the Inter star may not quite be an upgrade on them.
Also in signing the Croatian, Mourinho will be bringing in someone with zero Premier League experience and the player may struggle to adapt to the physical nature of England’s top flight. He also does not add a potential goal threat, which makes the Portuguese manager’s interest in him a tad surprising.
Reports have also linked the Manchester outfit with a shock double swoop for Tottenham Hotspur’s full-back duo of Kyle Walker and Danny Rose. Two English players, arguably in the best shape of their playing career, would undoubtedly be upgrades to the club’s current crop of defenders, but Spurs will almost definitely be reluctant to let go of them.
Luke Shaw has struggled to recover from the career-threatening injury he encountered last season, while Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind are still not making the left-back berth their own at the club. Rose’s addition would certainly give Mourinho an undisputed first choice, but the chances of that happening are minimal.
The same can be said about Walker who will not be looking for a way out of White Hart Lane. He has been given preferential treatment time and again by Mauricio Pochettino, and he has repaid the manager’s faith with spirited performances on the field of play.
The Red Devils, along with Arsenal and Barcelona, are set to miss out on signing Red Bull Salzburg centre-back Dayot Upamecano. The 18-year-old is close to securing a €12.5 million move to Bundesliga’s 2016/17 surprise package RB Leipzig.
Upamecano is widely regarded as one of France’s next big things. He has been extensively scouted by top European sides, but will have to wait for a few more seasons if he is to move to the bigger clubs.
He is extremely versatile and can put in a decent shift further up the field. His tackling prowess is extremely superior to most players his age. The Frenchman would undoubtedly have been a decent addition to United’s youth team, but Mourinho will now have to look elsewhere.
And he has looked no further than Barnsley full-back James Bree. The 19-year-old Englishman has emerged as a transfer target for United and City. Predominantly a defender, Bree is known to drift further forward and play as a midfielder.
Still only 19, Bree could learn a lot with a move to either of the two Manchester outfits. Both the clubs have state of the art facilities for their youth academies that have seen a number of youngsters make meteoric rises into regular first team football.
With the EFL Cup tie only a few hours away, world-record signing Paul Pogba has called for a demolition job of the Tigers in the first leg itself. In an interview with MUTV, the French midfielder said, “It’s a game we want to win of course. It’s a semi-final, we want to be in the final and we want to win that cup.”
“If we have the chance to win any trophy we want to take it. It’s an important game for us and the second leg will be difficult so let’s try to finish the tie in the first leg.”
The 23-year-old is expected to return to the United lineup for the game against Hull after being rested for the weekend’s FA Cup encounter against Reading. Pogba has already made 26 appearances in all competitions this term and is finally starting to prove his worth at club.