Meulensteen on summer targets Lindelof, Perisic, Morata and the effects on Rashford

Former Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen has spoken about his former club’s summer transfer targets, amongst other things in a recent interview. The Dutchman who after leaving the Old Trafford club after David Moyes replaced Sir Alex Ferguson after he retired, became the assistant manager, then the manager of Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala, before managing Championship side Fulham, then Israeli side Maccabi Haifa. Last week United confirmed they had agreed on a fee for Benfica’s Swedish defender Victor Lindelof, a player who arrived at the club’s AON Training Complex in Carrington this morning to undergo his medical ahead of his move. Meulensteen speaking exclusively to 888sport spoke about United’s summer targets, saying:

“They have already signed Lindelof from Benfica and obviously that was an area they needed to address. They’re still looking for a full-back and Fabinho from Monaco has been mentioned. A lot depends on whether they can keep De Gea because he is a very, very good goalkeeper and if they don’t do they sign a back up to Romero or a new number one? Michael Carrick has signed an extension which is important for Mourinho because he can be a great stabiliser in many games still. On top of that he needs more attacking threat and power, players who are clinical because for all their struggles last season the word that springs to my mind is wasteful. They created some really good chances but didn’t take enough of them. That is definitely an area they need to improve.”

Meulensteen also singled out Lindelof suggesting that the Swede will need to achieve success at his new club, which may not be a problem. Meulensteen, fully knowing what he is talking about stated that Jose Mourinho will need to have his central defenders to be solid when the defence is in danger, also needing to be comfortable on the ball and to play out from the back, which is an obsession of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. Lindelof will almost certainly partner Eric Bailly, the player who became the best defender at the club last season, only arriving for £30 million last summer. If Lindelof has a similar season as the Ivorian, he will be a great buy with United spending just over £60 million on two central defenders, with some teams willing to spend that on one. Meulensteen said:

“To be one of the two Manchester United centre-backs you need to be solid and deal with any danger when it comes your way but on the other hand, you also have to be comfortable on the ball, to play out from the back. I’m sure that Mourinho has done his homework on Lindelof and those are the qualities that he will need.”

Ivan Perisic is rumoured to be another target for Mourinho this summer with a bid thought to have been placed for the Croatian, which had been rejected with Inter Milan holding out for €55 million for the player. Meulensteen spoke about the winger and stated that the 28-year-old would give United another dimension in terms of goal threat, which is something the club needed to improve on this summer with goals becoming a problem last season, amongst other things. Meulensteen praised Perisic by saying:

“Ivan Perisic is comfortable on the ball and he’s a creator. He can beat a man and has a fantastic pass. It’s important that United have a man who can open up defences with one pass and he has that. He can offer them another level of a goal threat.”

Alvaro Morata is reported to be close to securing a move to United this summer if reports are correct and Meulensteen spoke about the Spanish striker. United were linked to Everton’s Romelu Lukaku ahead of the summer transfer window opening, but the former United coach does not feel the Belgian has the United DNA. Meulensteen feels that Morata is the striker United need the most. The Dutchman said:

“Obviously, Romelu Lukaku knows the Premier League and has played in the Premier League for many years. He has plenty of power but I’m not too sure he has the kind of DNA that we’d like to see at Manchester United. Morata is a good striker but he’s in a situation where he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. I like him though: he is mobile, agile, and creates chances. The same can be said of Belotti but both would be coming from abroad and would have to adapt to the Premier League which we all know is difficult. If Belotti comes in it’s important that he scores early and get the monkey off his back. Then he could be a good fit. For me, though it would be Morata. We haven’t seen enough of him lately but then again it is extremely hard to get into that Real team.”

One concern to Meulensteen is tat he hopes Marcus Rashford does not become a victim after Mourinho’s plans to rebuild his United side this summer. The Dutch coach has worked with the teenager since he was a seven-year-old at the Cliff, United’s former training ground before moving to Carrington. Rashford had a great rise to fame with United, scoring twice in both his UEFA Europa League and Premier League debuts. Over the past season, Rashford has grown even more as a player, predominantly playing out of position, but still entertaining, which would suggest he will be some player when he reaches his peak, providing he is continuously given chances to succeed. Morata will most likely become the first-choice striker, but if Mourinho changes his formation utilising two strikers in some matches, not all, the pairing of the duo could be devastating. Meulensteen said:

“I like Marcus Rashford and I’ve worked with him when he was a little kid coming in to the Cliff at seven years of age. He came in with a smile and left with a smile. He couldn’t wait to start training and training was always short for him. There was only one level of energy that he would bring. I bumped into him recently at Michael Carrick’s testimonial and we had a chat. He’s still got those things and that’s important because as a professional you get exposed to a lot and you need stability in your life.”

“I’m so happy that he has already got so many games and he’s only going to get better the more that he plays and the more things that he gets exposed to. A lot depends on what type of striker Mourinho brings in. If they spend a great deal of money on someone there might be a chance that Marcus is again shifted out to the left or right. He can play there for sure but his best position is up front. I really hope that any new signings don’t sideline Marcus completely because that would be a real shame.”

Read the full 888sport interview with Rene Meulensteen, including his thoughts on how Morata should be Mourinho’s top target this summer.

Swedish international nearing Manchester United move – reports

Manchester United are reportedly closing in on the signing of Benfica central defender Victor Lindelof. The reports seem to be generated by Portuguese daily Record, which have been carried by a number of newspapers in England. The Daily Mail have reported that the Swedish international could sign for the Old Trafford club this summer for a fee around the £35 million mark, whereas The Sun suggest the fee could be £30 million. The difference is explained by a bonus if targets at United are achieved whilst the player is at the club. That being said, the reports maintain what Record have said, which could be something or nothing. United have been interested in Lindelof for some time with a move expected during the January transfer window, which did not materialise.

On Wednesday, another Portuguese daily, O Jogo stated that Benfica president Luis Filipe Vieira travelled to England to negotiate the sale of Lindelof and teammate Nelson Semedo, of which the Portuguese club were looking to get €95 million, around £83 million for the pair. United have a reported interest in Semedo, but with the resurgent form of Antonio Valencia, the right-back position is not as urgent as other which will need filling this summer, although Jose Mourinho could remain interested in the player, should he land all his other targets and still have funds available for the transfer, which would probably be an expensive one, considering Benfica and other Portuguese teams seem to sell players for high prices, which is fair enough at the end of the day.

Lindelof, now 23, has been linked to many big European teams with Real Madrid, Barcelona and newly promoted Championship winners Newcastle United, or as Sir Alex Ferguson would say, that wee club in the North East. United’s interest in Lindelof seemed to end in January amid reported of a third-party ownership which still needed to be resolved. Lindelof did sign a new contract with Benfica, which expires in the summer of 2022, which is not considered an issue for Manchester United and Jose Mourinho, according to the reports. United have watched Lindelof, or at least someone playing for Benfica throughout the season, the most recent being Benfica’s 4-0 victory over Belenenses in March.

Lindelof’s contract holds a £52 million release clause according to The Sun, which would deem their report of a £30 million fee to be unlikely unless Benfica were willing to accept offers of a lower value for the player, which would suggest the release clause would be pointless in all honesty. The report does state that Benfica president Vieira did want United to meet the release clause, instead agreeing on a fee of a more modest sum, the £30 million reported, which is a strange one, unless the club were resigned to lose the Swedish international and other suitors were no longer interested, therefore resigning Benfica to accepting United lower figure. There could well be something in this after all with United and Mourinho looking to find a capable defensive partner for Eric Bailly.

United have Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind in the central defence position at this moment in time with youth player Axel Tuanzebe also considered, although over the past few matches, he has been playing as a defensive midfielder, which may have been down to rotation and injury more than anything else. Rojo will be out of action until early 2018, which is a big blow for United with both Smalling and Jones injury prone, Bailly the key man in defence and Blind seen as his partner, at this moment in time at least. The prospective arrival of Lindelof, or another central defender, could end the United career of Smalling or Jones, or even both.

Could Victor Lindelof finally make a move to Manchester United?

Victor Lindelof is a player many Manchester United supporters will have read about due to the fact he was heavily linked to the Old Trafford club during the January transfer window, with a move seemingly being prepared, then not for the Benfica defender. It is now being reported, that after a change of heart by Jose Mourinho, United will make a move for the Swedish defender after all, although this is just a rumour and an early one at that with the season more than three weeks away from being completed. It is being reported that United are in talks with Benfica with a view of signing Lindelof for £40 million, although the Portuguese club will be holding out for more like they do all the time. This season, Mourinho has seen Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Chris Smalling all suffer injuries with Rojo out for the remainder of the season and both Jones and Smalling having been out for the last month. Bailly was injured against Swansea City on Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford, it is not yet known as to whether he has a severe injury or not.

What is being reported and by who?

The Mirror are currently reporting that United are making a £40 million move for Lindelof, with Benfica president Luis Filipe Vieira reportedly holding out for £50 million, which is the players release clause. The 22-year-old did not leave Benfica in January due to various ‘sticking points’, one of those being a £3.5m compensation package to overcome the sell-on agreement to former club Vasteras. Mourinho has a central defensive problem to deal with in the summer. It is likely that Eric Bailly and Marcos Rojo will be retained by the club, Daley Blind of proficient in other positions, so he could be safe also, but the injury prone duo, Phil Jones, and Chris Smalling will both be in doubt, especially with Mourinho also looking at Burnley defender Michael Keane. The Metro have also reported that Lindelof could move to Old Trafford this summer, with the Bleacher Report also making the claims.

What type of player is Victor Lindelof?

Victor Lindelof is a central defender and has played for Benfica since he was 17. The Swedish international propelled himself into the first team last season after he was noticed playing above his potential in the youth side. Lindelof found his place in the first team and has never looked back. Many will suggest that moving to a big club could have been too much for Lindelof, which may be the case, but you have that risk with any player, experienced or not. Look at Angel Di Maria – he was a waste of money. Lindelof is calm and confident on the pitch, which is one of the reasons he established himself in the heart of the defence. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had some good things to say about his compatriot, saying:

“I think Victor is doing great things, he is playing good for Benfica, he gets a lot of responsibility for the national team now, he is growing. Is he good enough for United? I think he’s good enough for the big clubs out there. It’s up to him what he wants and what the situation says. Whatever he chooses will be good for him. I know he is hot on the market so let him make the right choice, what fits him good.”

Lindelof has made 38 appearances for Benfica this season, not scoring any goals, which is not something he will offer much of, but playing well in Benfica’s bid to retain the Primeira Liga for the fourth time in a row, sitting three points clear of FC Porto at this moment in time. Whether Lindelof remains at Benfica in the summer, heads to Manchester United or to another club, they will have a calm and composed defender, one worthy of forming a defensive partnership and leading the team to glory.

Likelihood of the transfer?

Lindelof was a dead cert to make the move to Old Trafford during the January transfer window, but the move never materialised and may not this summer either. United are in the market for one or two central defenders, but there is more to Lindelof and Keane out there. Mourinho has been linked to John Terry, who will leave Chelsea this summer, but that would be a lazy rumour also. Lindelof is a talented player, who at 22 is playing in a tough league, but will be tested in the Premier League, like Eric Bailly has this season. Bailly has done well, in fact, better than expected. Lindelof spoke about staying at Benfica in the winter transfer window, suggesting he was right to remain at Benfica, rather than moving to the Theatre of Dreams. Reported by Expressen via The Sun Lindelof said:

“It feels good that I extended my stay by one year. I enjoy playing for the club and feel I evolve every day there. It was an easy choice. Both parties were very happy and they wanted to give me a sign that they are satisfied with what I’ve done there. Much has been written but it’s nothing I have focused on. I have always focused on what was important to me and that’s the team. [The rumours] makes no difference to me. As I’ve said I’ve been thriving at Benfica and that’s where the focus has been. A lot has been written and I’ve said nothing, I’ve been focused. I have a long contract at Benfica and I’m thriving there. It’s a big club and I’m developing every day. I’m only 22 years old and there is no stress [to push through a move].”

United and Mourinho will continue to be linked to many defenders this summer, being that is one of the main positions the Portuguese manager needs to strengthen, which has been shown by the continued injury list amongst the same players. You may even see some players link themselves to a move to United, possibly on the hunt for another club, or just to ensure they get a better contract at their current club. Silly season will commence very soon.

Lindelof wanted by Manchester United, not if Benfica get their way!

Manchester United are reportedly interested in signing Benfica’s Swedish defender Victor Lindelof during the January transfer window, which could happen providing the Portuguese team do not make the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League this season. United have defensive problems this season with Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly on the sidelines, with the latter returning to training this week, and then in January off to the African Cup of Nations to represent Ivory Coast, the current holders in the competition. United will then be back to four fit defenders through January and into February with injury derailing things once again for the club. In the summer, it was reported that Jose Mourinho wanted to make another defensive addition with Southampton’s Jose Fonte linked to the club, but after signing Paul Pogba, United did not delve back into the transfer market.

Lindelof has been praised by many, including Manchester United striker and compatriot Zlatan Ibrahimovic and it is suggested that United are in the driving seat for the players signature. Benfica currently lead group B in the Champions League, having the same amount of points as Napoli in second place with Beşiktaş in third place with seven points. If United did want Lindelof in January, Napoli would need to beat Benfica and Beşiktaş would need to beat Dynamo Kyiv, which could happen. If not, United will have to look into other players to strengthen the defence in January or wait until the summer to lure the Swede to Old Trafford. Lindelof’s agent Hasan Cetinkaya recently stated the following:

“I don’t want to comment on various clubs but there is concrete interest from some of the biggest in Europe.

“‘Vigge’ really enjoys it at Benfica, at the same time, as I have said before, there is no smoke without fire when it comes to that many clubs that are interested in him, but Victor is focused on Benfica.”

Whilst Lindelof is a target for many big clubs in Europe, there is no confirmation that Manchester United are a team interested in the player, or that he would be tempted to move to a club not participating in the top European competition this season, or next if United fail to either win the UEFA Europa League, or finish fourth, at least, in the Premier League this season. Ibrahimovic might be a player that could tempt the 22-year-old to the Theatre of Dreams, but it is not a certainty. One thing that makes me wonder is whether Lindelof is good enough for Manchester United. Is he better than the players he could replace at the club; Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind? Is he a better option that the talented youth at the club, namely Axel Tuanzebe and RoShaun Williams? Is the supposed interest in the player strong? The media do get speculation wrong most of the time.

copyright: JW