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Faouzi Ghoulam linked to Manchester United; could he be the answer at left-back or some experience to guide Luke Shaw?

Manchester United have been linked to many players already and the season has more than a month left to go before it is over, and the ‘silly season’ will get much worse. It has been reported that Jose Mourinho is seeking a new right-back, left-back, central defender and midfielders to replace Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini. Many players which United have been linked with over the past few years are starting to be linked again. Some may suggest this means the club want these players, others will suggest the media know nothing and are clutching at straws.

Napoli left-back Faouzi Ghoulam is now reportedly on United’s radar, despite many journalists suggesting that Juventus’ Brazilian left-back, Alex Sandro was a player the Old Trafford club were seriously interested in. The reports, which come from France, state that United are willing to pay £26 million for the Algerian fullback this summer. Ghoulam has become one of the top defenders in Serie A, playing for the club from Naples for five years now. He suffered a cruciate ligament injury earlier this season, also beat Riyad Mahrez to the Algerian Player of the Year award for 2017.

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The Algerian was a target for Manchester City before his injury but with Benjamin Mendy close to recovery after spending much of the season on the sidelines through injury, the Premier League champions-elect may not make a move for the player. Ghoulam signed a new contract in December and it is suggested that there is a £52 million release clause as part of it, which has not actually been confirmed. If that is true, the reports of signing the player for £26 million would seem unlikely.

United are suggested to be leading the race for Ghoulam, who could replace Luke Shaw at the club. The former England left-back has been criticised a few times this season, not actually stepping forward during his four years at the Old Trafford club. Many still talk of his potential, which is still there, despite the fact he has failed to become the player many thought he would become. It has been suggested that Mourinho has been bullying Shaw, which is a pretty pathetic and biased opinion – the manager has told him to become better, which is something that doesn’t seem to happen.

Personally, I don’t think Ghoulam is the answer, especially if he is going to cost £52 million if that release clause is part of the contract he signed around four months ago. Alex Sandro, if his signing is achievable which is something I doubt too, would be a much better option and he would cost a bit more than Ghoulam. I would like to see Shaw come through and prove himself but recently Ashley Young has been a much better option and will probably start against Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday evening.

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This season, Ghoulam made 15 appearances for Napoli in all competitions before suffering an injury, scoring twice and assisting three further goals. It looked like it could have been a great start for him, which could have continued if it was not for a cruciate ligament injury. In just 1,288 minutes of football, Ghoulam averaged 0.9 tackles, 1.3 interceptions, 1.1 clearances, and 0.2 blocks in the defensive aspect of each game. Offensively, Ghoulam averaged 0.9 shots, 2.1 key passes, and 0.9 dribbles per match, being fouled on average 0.9 times per game.

Ghoulam has many strengths, which include; crossing, holding onto the ball, passing, his eye for a key pass, aerial duels and taking set-pieces. His main weakness is his ability to tackle, which may or may not be important in Mourinho’s plans if he is a target for United this summer. The Algerian’s style of play includes his fondness to play short passes along with playing a cross into attacking areas, which is something United would benefit from.

At 27, Ghoulam may not be a long-term option but in terms of helping Shaw develop, which could be a reason for the interest, he could be a good signing for United this summer. The same could be said for any experienced left-back though, as Luke Shaw is the only recognised left-back at United, which is great but who does he learn from? When Sir Alex Ferguson brought Alexander Büttner to the club, he was tipped to be the long-term replacement for Patrice Evra, with the Frenchman still at the club to assist him. Since Evra left, United have had no experience in this position.

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