Wilfred Ndidi: the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League this season, a necessary addition for Manchester United


Over the course of the 2018/19 Premier League season, Manchester United learned that the squad they have amassed was just not good enough. Six years after their last league title and more than £700 million spent in the transfer market, nothing seems to have worked to get the team back in contention with the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Arsenal.

There are many players currently at the club who literally do not bring anything to the squad – some of these have been at the club for almost a decade, others not as long. However, if they are able to continue representing United on the pitch, the decline will continue to rot this once great club. The midfield is an area which needs suitable additions this summer. One position in this area if defensive midfield. Nemanja Matic currently occupies this position; Ander Herrera stood in but as he’s now left the club, there is no other player able to do a sufficient job.

During the past season, Wilfred Ndidi of Leicester City has become one of the best defensive midfielders in the league. It is players like him that United should be targetting to structure a rebuild around. He is Premier League proven, does his job effectively, is not a superstar but is a player that would ensure the future of the club is in good hands. Too much common sense for people like Ed Woodward, who knows as much about football as could be written on the head of a pin.

This season alone, Ndidi won possession of the ball 324 times for Leicester. The closest players to him in respect to this were Declan Rice of West Ham United (288) and Ruben Neves of Wolverhampton Wanders (286). Obviously, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has suggested that he will target young homegrown talent, of which Ndidi is not so it may be that United do not make a move for the player, however, I think they should.

Ndidi is a tackler, making 99 tackles this season, more than any other player in the league. I guess one other thing which will be a factor here is that the African Cup of Nations will take place this summer, the first time the tournament has been played outside of the regular season and with Nigeria aiming for glory this summer, talk of a prospective move may hamper efforts with the player not being fully focused on the task in hand, unless, of course, a club moves for him well before the tournament starts on the 21 June.

The transfer window, at least for domestic transfers, opened on Thursday with the window for international transfers opening on the 11 June. United will be expected to get their business done early, which has not been the case in any of the six summer transfer windows the club has endured post-Sir Alex Ferguson.

This season, Ndidi has played 38 times in the Premier League, starting 37 times, playing 3,299 minutes of football. The 22-year-old has also played twice in the Carabao Cup, playing 180 minutes of football. In total, he has scored two goals, assisting another. That, however, is not what the player does best on the pitch and should be considered a bonus.

Defensively, Ndidi averages 3.8 tackles, 2.2 interceptions, 2.1 clearances and 0.2 blocks per match. He is also only dribbled past 1.3 times per match on average and commits 1.2 fouls per match. Offensively, the 22-year-old averages 1.4 shots, 0.6 key passes, 0.9 dribbles, and is fouled 0.6 times per match. These statistics are pretty good for a Premier League player and someone like Ndidi, who might want a step up in his career, a bigger challenge if you will, would get this and more at United.

Ndidi has played a total of 88 times for Leicester in the Premier League over the past three seasons. He has made a total of 4,357 passes, being successful with 49.51% of them, which is a fair statistic. The Nigerian midfielder has also made 349 tackles, winning 65% of them, which is something United currently lacks in midfield – a player who will tackle his opposition regularly.

Obviously, this article is based upon opinion and does not suggest that United are interested in purchasing Ndidi. There has been speculation in the media bout Ndidi and Manchester United, reported by both the Manchester Evening News and the Leicester Mercury, however, both articles stated that supporters of United have shown an interest in the player, there is nothing to suggest United are interested in the Nigerian.

One thing that I did manage to find was an article published by One Football back in 2017 where the agent of Ndidi, Hakeem Bello, stated that he would not expect the player, who was 20 at the time, to reject any approach from United. Whether that is still the case though is not known as two years have now passed. Bello. who at the time was speaking to, said:

“Ndidi won’t say no to Manchester United. I can proudly tell you that if a bid is launched for him, he will most likely ask Leicester City for a transfer.

“We’re talking Manchester United, you know, the biggest and most successful in England. That’s a no-brainer. Ndidi won’t turn down Man United, anyone willing to bet?”

Time will tell just exactly who Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are interested in this summer. The Norwegian manager has suggested that he would like business done before the squad embarks on their pre-season tour, where they will face Perth Glory (13 July) and Leeds United (17 July) at the Opus Stadium, Perth, Australia before participating in the International Champions Cup where they will face Inter Milan (20 July) and the Singapore National Stadium, Singapore, Tottenham Hotspur (25 July) at the Hongkou Stadium, Shanghai, China and AC Milan (3 August) at the Principality Stadium, Cardiff, Wales.

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