Manchester United added Paul Pogba to a promising set of midfielders, which many believed answered all the questions surrounding the club’s midfield for the last decade. However, it appears Jose Mourinho also wanted N’Golo Kante, who he contacted and tried to persuade to join United before he went to Chelsea.
Kante, who was the best player in the Premier League last season, is on a trajectory to being one of the best midfielders in the history of the Premier League, and he explained how he received a call from Mourinho, who tried to convince him to join United. Kante, who was already in negotiations with Chelsea at the time, was trying to decide whether or not it was a good decision to leave Leicester City, and he said Antonio Conte gave him the best feeling.
“It was amazing to have Mourinho call me, even though I’d been warned before how he would appeal to me. I listened to his arguments about why I should move to United. But at that time I was hesitant about staying at Leicester or leaving for Chelsea. My discussions with them were already well underway. But when I spoke, I had a good feeling with Conte.”
Kante, who was the key piece in the puzzle as Leicester cruised to an unlikely Premier League title, is now lighting up Stamford Bridge with his combative, industrial performances alongside Nemanja Matic. Mourinho, who claimed to be chasing four positions of strengthening, potentially wanted to add Kante instead of Pogba, but also maybe wanted him alongside Pogba. In that case, United would’ve had the best two midfielders in the Premier League at their disposal, and the perfect duo to attack with pace and have the ability to recover.
The problem with Marouane Fellaini playing for United is his inability to recover from advanced areas. When he needed to attack against Hull, he couldn’t recover fast enough to be a defensive piece against their counter-attacks. Pogba, Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia have used their tremendous recovery pace to return to defend when needed. Kante would’ve been the perfect piece to complete the puzzle.
However, United also has Morgan Schneiderlin, a player who became famous for this at Southampton, alongside Victor Wanyama. Schneiderlin is best at transitioning a football forward incredibly quickly, winning the ball in advanced areas with his intense tenacity. A true shuttler, Schneiderlin’s exploits moving forward aren’t as effective, but partnering Paul Pogba will allow him to focus more on preventing counter-attacks.
It would have been a bit dangerous to risk changing the entire midfield, and that risk has not proven successful in each of the past two seasons, and Mourinho seems to be learning from his mistakes. Kante is a different midfielder to Schneiderlin in the sense that he performs the same role in different ways. Schneiderlin has the potential to reach similar levels as Kante if given the chance, and he would be an ideal partner for Pogba, one who wanted to be at the club in the first place and seemingly wants to stay around in pursuit of a starting spot.