Leander Dendoncker a target for Manchester United as a defensive midfielder is sought

Manchester United seem to be linked to many names this summer, many more than Jose Mourinho’s lists which were handed to executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward before the start of the summer could possibly have on them. The latest in a long time of player to be linked is Leander Dendoncker. Of course, the Belgian midfielder has been linked with United before, but now that speculation has continued after Mourinho confirmed that he still wants to sign two players this summer; a defensive minded midfielder and an attacking midfielder to play on the wing. United had been linked with Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic, Tottenham Hotspur’s Eric Dier and a whole host of other midfielders this summer, even AS Monaco’s Fabinho, who was apparently not a target.

On the wing, United were initially interested in Antoine Griezmann, which led to Ivan Perisic, with the Croatian now seemingly off United’s radar of Inter Milan are to be believed. Dendoncker, an Anderlecht player and one who played against United twice in the UEFA Europa League back in April is now a player linked with United. The 22-year-old has played for his club 126 times and has starred, presumably why United have now been linked with him, whether the link is real or one created to write transfer related articles adding player names to the name Manchester United, which recently seems to be a winner for the media, who must be making a killing this summer. Who has United not been linked with this summer?

Dendoncker is tall at 6 ft 2 in, something United manager Mourinho likes in a player – United had been quite short in recent years until last summer when Eric Bailly, Paul Pogba, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived, giving the much-needed height advantage at the back, along with Chris Smalling, the midfield and in the attack. Dendoncker was vital in Anderlecht’s Jupiler Pro League title win last season, anchoring the midfield and presumably now being an option for Mourinho. United had scouted Anderlecht throughout the last season, not only before United were drawn against them in the Europa League, but after that too. Even on Friday evening as the side opened their new season campaign.

Dendoncker is a strong tackler, good in the air and committed in his role, he can play in the defensive midfield role, sitting just in front of the back four, or even back three if Mourinho opts for that this coming season for some matches. The Belgian is a decent technical player too, able to switch roles, playing short and long accurate passes, using either foot, which is a bonus and is not afraid to shoot when he finds himself in a position to do so. The 22-year-old scored five goals last season for Anderlecht, which may not sound so great, but five from midfield for United last season could have helped turn some of the draws into wins, maybe even some of the defeats into draws.

Michael Carrick turned 36 on Friday, and with his one-year contract which was signed earlier in the summer, United will need to find a player to hand the reigns over to in the defensive midfield position. Ander Herrera played a similar role last season, but he is much better box-to-box, as he has shown and can also be utilised to mark creative players out of the game, as was shown against Chelsea seemingly keeping Eden Hazard out of the headlines, for the right reasons at least. Dendoncker seems to be a lot like Carrick in the way that he likes to pass forwards, creating an attack whenever he has the ball, which is what he should be doing, rather than keeping the ball and risking the opposition scoring. United could do well with a player like the Belgian.

Dendoncker has the vision to be a hit at a big club, seeing the passes which could be made, the creation of chances and the ability to read the game, which is something United have with both Carrick and Daley Blind, but having another player with this ability would not be a bad thing for United, especially in a season whereby Mourinho will be expected to lead his team to a Premier League title challenge, even suggesting he could lift the title with his club if things in the transfer market go well. United have spent over £100 million this summer bringing in Victor Lindelof from Benfica and Romelu Lukaku from Everton, but that could be stretched further should Mourinho get his wish and a defensive midfielder and a winger arrive before the season starts.

One disadvantage which Mourinho may see as a fault in Dendoncker is the fact he breaks forward, sometimes ahead of the ball to get into an attacking position, leaving his position open, possibly with a teammate having to cover for him, whilst doing what he needs to do, something which could be ironed out with the player learning his responsibilities at United, should the move materialise, which seems unlikely at this moment in time, but United have been watching someone and it could only be one of a few of a number of players. The Sun reported in a scouting report of the player that United had sent scouts to watch Anderlecht but also confirming that they are not the only club interested in the player with RB Leipzig and AC Milan amongst the interested parties.

The Mirror also reported the fact United had planned to scout Anderlecht against Royal Antwerp in the Jupiler Pro League season opener on Friday night, also confirming that RB Leipzig and AC Milan had planned the same. It seems to be early days right now. We know United are in the market for a defensive minded midfielder and a winger, so putting two and two together suggests that Dendoncker could well be a target here, although nothing has been confirmed at this moment in time, and probably never will, unless United make an offer for the player and a move transpires. United and the other clubs could well have had their eye on someone else too. The Sun suggest £34 million could be the price for Dendoncker, which shows value could be found in the market.

Anderlecht sporting director Herman van Holsbeeck has suggested a price he would be happy to sell Dendoncker for this summer, which would be even cheaper than the valuation carried by The Sun; £34 million. Van Holsbeek suggests the Belgian champions would demand €25-35 million for the player, which would be a maximum of £31.3 million, some great business this summer with prices being inflated across the continent. Speaking to Het Belang van Limburg, Van Holsbeek said:

“We want to cherish him, but if a club is willing to pay between €25million and €35m, we have a problem.”

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