Manchester United have endured a tough 2020/21 season which resulted in them finishing second in the Premier League, reaching the quarter-final of the Emirates FA Cup, the semi-final of the Carabao Cup and the final of the UEFA Europa League, after exiting the group stages of the UEFA Champions League. It has been clear that Harry Maguire is the player that gives United their best chance of defending with both Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly not competent enough without the captain on the pitch, which was shown in the latter stages of the season after Maguire was injured in the victory over Aston Villa. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted another defender last summer but did not end up with one. This summer should be much different though…
Pau Torres, 24 – Villarreal and Spain
The 24-year-old has been linked to United since last summer with suggestions that Solskjaer wanted a left footed central defender to partner Harry Maguire. A year later, United are still linked to the Spanish international but after his performances this season, cupped with his performance in the UEFA Europa League final last week, in which Villarreal beat United 11-10 one penalties following a 1-1 draw after extra time. Torres is a top defender and will have found himself more interest amongst some of the biggest teams in European football. It has been reported by The Athletic that UEFA Champions League holders, Chelsea are interested in Torres this summer, which could lead to problems for United signing the player, if the reports are true.
It seems that Chelsea have other targets and Torres could be a fall back option in case other targets did not materialise this summer. It might not be the best predicament for the Spaniard who at one stage seemed to be United’s first-choice option, especially after the Europa League final. He is an upgrade on Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly – not that it would be hard to achieve that feat. One other problem here is Torre’s recent comments, reported by ESPN, who has stated that he is fully committed to Villarreal’s UEFA Champions League campaign next season, which may just be a necessary comment to calm down speculation ahead of Euro 2020, which had been delayed from last summer. United would have to pay €65 million (£55.9 million) for him this summer.
Raphaël Varane, 28 – Real Madrid and France
The 28-year-old was a priority for Sir Alex Ferguson back in 2011 after the player left RC Lens for Real Madrid which resulted in United signing Phil Jones from Blackburn Rovers instead. For years now, Varane has been linked to United as their pursuit to settle the defence continues after the signings of Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire. There is a lot of speculation surrounding Varane, especially with Zinedine Zidane leaving the Spanish club this summer and Carlo Ancelotti replacing him, leaving Everton after two years at the club. Spanish source COPE have reported that Varane will leave the Madrid club this summer and there is suggestions of a £35 million fee set by the Spanish club with his contract expiring next summer.
Under Ancelotti’s first reign in Madrid (2013 to 2015), the Frenchman struggled for game time and that could well be the case again. The Madrid club needs to rebuild and that will mean getting rid of a number of players to fund a rebuild. Ancelotti will be up for the challenge and many players will be seeking exits to other big clubs for new challenges or whatever it is they use to motivate them. Chelsea have been long-term admirers of the player too, and they will be seeking big names to join them this summer in a big to covert their Champions League glory into domestic honours, it being a few years since they won the Premier League. Madrid also have the option to renew the contract of Varane too, which some suspect that is what this is all about.
Jules Koundé, 22 – AS Monaco and France
The 22-year-old has been seen as a hot property in European football for well over a year now and United were seemingly interested in signing the Frenchman last summer, despite only moving from FC Girondins de Bordeaux the summer prior to that. Koundé is contracted at the principality club until the summer of 2024 so the fee suggested for the player will be a big one, but comparative to other names on the radar for United, and other clubs, this summer. The Frenchman is also linked to Chelsea this summer and after their Champions League victory over Manchester City last weekend, and the fact Thomas Tuchel manages the club, it could be more tempting than United for the 22-year-old.
The Athletic reported that Koundé is in the plans of Tuchel this summer, but with the transfer window a week away from opening here in England and the foreign window opening on the 1 July, there will be plenty of time for clubs to get deals done. United always tend to be slow in the transfer market and despite the changes made at the club this year, many supporters do not expect things to be much different. It has been reported that Koundé’s fee will be upwards of £50 million, which is comparative of other players linked to the club this summer and considering the age of the player and the future he has ahead of him, it could be money well spent. He seems to be more linked to Chelsea this summer, which could be a preferred destination.
Nikola Milenković, 22 – ACF Fiorentina and Serbia
The 23-year-old would be the bargain buy this summer and United have held a lot of interest in the player with him linked last summer and once again this summer. He will be out of contract at Fiorentina in a year’s time, so this will be the last transfer window that the club could recoup money for the player. The player is likely to be available for around £25 million this summer, which is the cheapest player in this group of four, also being five years younger than Varane. Fiorentina would like to keep hold of the player, but so far that has been no agreement in a new contract, which at a certain point would have to result in the player being sold. It was suggested that United had an easy swoop for the Serbian but that does not seem the case any longer.
Arsenal and West Ham United have both been credited with interest in the Serbian but with the former not involved in any European football this summer – not even a trip to Wales (unless they are drawn against a Welsh club in any of the domestic cup competitions), it may seem unlikely that Arsenal could sign the player – who will certainly have bigger dreams than playing for the club that finished eighth in the Premier League. West Ham have qualified for the Europa League group stage, which will ensure their season becomes a tough one, playing on Thursday’s and Sunday’s for much of the first half of the season. Perhaps the Hammers will end up with him as both Torres and Varane should be the main options for United this summer.
Written by John Walker