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. Nemanja Matic is the only defensive midfielder at the club at the present time. Fred and Scott McTominay have played in this position with the latter offering more – but he is a box-to-box midfielder and it does not always work well. Fred does not have much to offer based on his time at the club so losses should be cut on him. For United to be able to challenge, this is a key position as it will enable Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to change his tactics and not use two players in the pivot doing the same job.
Declan Rice, 22 – West Ham United and England
The 22-year-old is a good midfielder and loads of United supporters seem to want him but I feel he has been overrated a little, especially with his fee suggested to be £90 million which has been bandied about recently. In the next few years, he could be a player to compliments a squad and you can see where a lot of the interest comes from but there will be many clubs interested in Rice this summer, especially if he performs well in Euro 2020, which was delayed last summer because of the coronavirus pandemic. There will be some hope that United could tempt the Hammers with Jesse Lingard, who spent the second half of the season on loan at the club, but even then it would be a hard push with Chelsea interested in their former academy player.
Rice is perhaps a luxury buy, especially for the fee that could be on his head but in the years to come, the initial outlay could become a bargain based on what he could offer the club. It is safe to say that United are not the club they once were which has developed because of a lack of stability post-Sir Alex Ferguson and the board of the club not doing the right thing to get United back to the top again. However, there is a new dawn at United under Solskjaer, no matter whether everyone agrees or not, it is happening. Rice’s Premier League experience would be good for United but also having a defensive midfielder with the ability to play back to back matches would be great too. This is an important position that needs to be strengthened.
Yves Bissouma, 24 – Brighton and Hove Albion and Mali
The 24-year-old has had a good season with Brighton and Hove Albion and many United supporters have talked about him but at this stage of the summer, United have not been credited with a solid interest in the player but both Liverpool and Arsenal have. Brighton paid £15 million for the player three years ago and would probably make a good return on selling him this summer, which is what they might so. United require a younger defensive midfielder to challenge Nemanja Matic, or replace him if he leaves this summer. Both Fred and Scott McTominay have not worked in this position with the latter more of a box-to-box midfielder. I don’t know what Fred’s strong point is in the midfield and that is after three seasons now.
It is suggested that Bissouma could cost £40 million, which is a decent fee for a player with Premier League experience and the hunger and desire to achieve more in the game. It is quite possible that Liverpool end up signing the player as they are the club most linked with him with Arsenal looking at other players, who may be available at a cheaper price. Their lack of European football next season would be similar to staying at Brighton with no real promotion, just a sideways move. United would not make a mistake with interest in Bissouma as right now he would be an upgrade in a position that United have no real cover for, unless they promote James Garner from the youth team, but a loan to a Premier League club for a season would be better for him.
Ryan Gravenberch, 19 – Ajax and Netherlands
The 19-year-old is the youngest player here but he has the potential to become one of the best in the world in his position. Legendary Dutch coach Aad de Mos insisted that development came naturally to Gravenberch and that he has the potential to become a world class player. He even likened him to an ‘Antelope with coordination and feeling‘. United held interest in the 19-year-old at the end of 2020 and it remains to be seen whether that interest is still there at this time. Donny van de Beek signed for United last summer and already the club was looking at signing another player from the famed academy of Dutch football. He’s been picked to represent the Netherlands at Euro 2020 this summer, so there could be a lot of interest if he plays well.
Gravenberch had both Barcelona and Juventus interested in him at the same time United were stated to be looking at him and now both Liverpool and Chelsea hold some interest in the player, so it will not be a clean cut transfer, especially if his performance levels this summer for the Netherlands are good, which will probably bring forward some offers for the player. It could go the other way too. The player could be available for a fee of around £40 million, maybe more, which is comparative to far fee of Van de Beek last summer. The only downfall is that Mino Raiola represents the player, which could be a turning point for United as they will not want to do business with the agent who has been the voice in the background with Paul Pogba for the past five years.
Mauro Arambarri, 25 – Getafe CF and Uruguay
The 25-year-old is more recently linked to United and his Uruguayan roots could be something that works well with Edinson Cavani at the club for another season and Facundo Pellistri heading into his second year at the club, after a six month loan in Spain, which could be something that continues for him into the new season. Spanish newspaper, AS, recently reported that United had contacted Getafe regarding Arambarrri. His current contract expires in the summer of 2023 and he has a €25 million release clause, which is about £21.5 million at this current time. He would be a frugal option, which might be needed this summer with United still linked to Jadon Sancho, amongst others this summer.
The player seems to have the ingredients in his locker to become a good defensive midfielder but his lack of Premier League experience would represent a gamble. His stats in Spain look quite good compared to players of the same or similar positions as him, which is a good thing to see. Premier League experience is not everything as United have signed many players who have not played in the league recently and they seem to be doing well. Of course, Bruno Fernandes is the benchmark, closely followed by Edinson Cavani. United definitely need to strengthen this position as it would enable the midfield to have some surety in strength, reducing the reliance on Nemanja Matic, who could also leave the club this summer.
Written by John Walker