Manchester United have been linked with a number of central midfielders this summer, it’s unclear who exactly the Red Devils are going for. Here, Footballweeks.com we pick out six of their best options.
Wilfred Ndidi – Leicester City
Leicester City lacked a combative ball winner since the departure of N’Golo Kante last summer and it wasn’t until January that the issue was rectified with the signing of Wilfred Ndidi from Belgian side Genk. The Nigerian international slotted in seamlessly in the Premier League, adjusting to the rigours of English football with consummate ease. Indeed, only the Frenchman (71) has made more tackles than Ndidi (68) in the Premier league in 2017.
The Foxes are understandably on the brink of losing one of their prized assets, particularly with Riyad Mahrez set to leave this summer, but they could be powerless to deny Ndidi a move if a suitable offer comes in. The 20-year-old’s passing qualities may leave little to the imagination, with the youngster developing a statistically calculated WhoScored.com weakness of ‘passing’ on account of a mediocre success rate of 75.9 per cent, but that number could easily improve in a team as dominant as United.
Ndidi has been linked with a move to Old Trafford already this year, and if Jose Mourinho fails to land other targets, the Nigerian man could be considered a workable alternative.
Fabinho – Monaco
Manchester United have been heavily linked with a move for Fabinho for much of the summer. Paris Saint-Germain are also in the market for Fabinho, but Monaco would prefer not to sell to a direct competitor, making a move to Old Trafford a possibility. Fabinho would be a better fit than Ndidi under Jose Mourinho with his pass success rate a respectable 84.4 per cent in Ligue 1 last season.
Fabinho averages of 3.1 tackles and 1.4 interceptions per game show he’s not one to shirk his defensive responsibilities, with the Monaco man willing to carry out the necessary duties of a holding midfielder. The 23-year-old versatility would be an added bonus in the middle, with him been able to play right-back, which would boost United’s squad options. He’s the ideal midfielder for a Mourinho side, in that Fabinho is able to play in a number of roles in the middle of the park, while a willingness to drop deep would allow the centre-backs to play the ball out from the back.
Monaco are playing hardball over him and clearly so considering his importance to the side, but he could be the best match for the Red Devils. Talk of a possible move to England has gone cold quiet in recent weeks, but with a month still to go until the transfer window slams shut, there is still a chance of him joining United. The Europa League winner could do a lot worse.
Marco Verratti – PSG
At the beginning of the week, Manchester United would not have had a snowball’s chance in hell of signing Marco Verratti from French side Paris Saint-Germain. However, the Italian’s decision to change his agent and instead sign with Mino Raiola, who represents Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and summer arrival Romelu Lukaku, prompted tentative reports linking the Italian international with a move to Manchester United. Factor in the Ligue 1 giants’ world record pursuit of Neymar and the French club could be forced into selling Verratti in order to comply with Financial Fair Play regulations.
Barcelona have been linked with Verratti for much of the summer but to no avail, which could present the Red Devils with an opportunity to hijack the deal from their La Liga counterparts in the race to sign the Italian. His best quality is his ability to comfortably retain possession. Only team-mate Thiago Motta averaged more passes per game (91.5) than the 24-year-old (87.5) in Ligue 1 last season, while a success rate of 88.4 per cent was also respectable. Even more interestingly, only Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette bagged a better WhoScored.com rating (7.57) than Verratti (7.54) in France’s top tier last term.
His ill-discipline may be cause for concern, but an average of 3.1 tackles per league game last season was a respectable return for the Italian. Like Fabinho, he performs the required job of a holding player. Veratti would be expensive than the Monaco man, but the former Pescara man is certainly better on the ball. Signing Marco Verrati would be a shrewd signing for the Red Devils.
Nemanja Matic – Chelsea
Earlier this summer, it seemed Namanja Matic would be joining Manchester United. The Serbian man seemed set for another link-up with Mourinho as reports circulated stating that a £40m fee had been agreed for the 28-year-old, but since the end of June, that report has gone cold. The Manchester club’s big money capture of Romelu Lukaku damaged relations between the Manchester giants and Chelsea. And now it appears they are unlikely to welcome offers from their Premier League rivals for the foreseeable future.
That being said, the Blues’ big money capture of Tiemoue Bakayoko may force them to sell. The Serbian international was left of the club’s squad for their pre-season tour of the Far East, and it’s likely his departure will be confirmed before the close of the summer window. Juventus seem to be the front-runners for his signature, but they could face stiff competition from United, particularly if he prefers to link up with Mourinho once again rather than move to Italy.
Only Fernandinho (325) has made more tackles than Matci (320) of midfielders in the Premier League since January 2014, while he is also a tidy performer in possession with a statistically calculated WhoScored.com strength of ‘passing’. For the time being, any deal seems to be off the table, but as the minutes tick towards the window closing, United could again emerge as a viable destination for the former Benfica man. The Chelsea man is familiar with Mourinho’s demands, so the move might make sense.
Naby Keita – RB Leipzig
If Manchester United could beat Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to the signing of Naby Keita, it would be a real coup for Mourinho’s side. The Reds remain favourites to sign the 22-year-old but they can beat the Reds financially, even if RB Leipzig are wholly against selling him this summer.
Only Ousmane Dembele (103) had more dribbles than Keita (83) in the Bundesliga last season. Keita’s ability to ghost past opponents and drive his side on would be a massive boost to United and offer them a new dimension to the way they attack.
Eight goals and seven assists was an impressive return from Keita in Germany’s top tier last term, but he also has impressive defensive strengths. His averages of 2.6 tackles and 2.6 interceptions per game were impressive to say the least, and he also won possession in the midfield third more times (180) than any other player in Germany’s top tier last term.
Those attributes have led to comparisons with N’Golo Kante, but he offers much more than his French counterpart in the final third having played the second most accurate through balls (seven) in his debut Bundesliga campaign. That would undoubtedly benefit United’s speedy attackers, with Paul Pogba one player who could potentially thrive with Keita in support. He is not a midfield destroyer by any means, but his box-to-box qualities and ability to create chances for others suggest he would be an inspired signing for United.
Eric Dier – Tottenham
Tottenham have no desire to sell Eric Dier but Mourinho is known to be a big admirer of the midfielder. With the onus on full-backs to break forward and provide attacking width for United, a player of Dier’s ilk would go a long way to ensuring they retain their defensive solidity and don’t run the risk of being caught short at the back.
Dier started 34 of 38 Premier League games for Spurs last season and Mauricio Pochettino is a huge fan of the former Sporting star considering his style and what he offers to Spurs. Only centre-back and fellow Spurs player Toby Alderweireld (212) made more accurate long balls than Dier (187) of all outfield players in the Premier League last season, with the latter able to spread the ball wide to help instigate attacks and stretch defences.
His ability to play in a three-man defence would also appeal to Mourinho, who would be acquiring a player comfortable in more than one position, akin to Fabinho. The United boss is thought to have tracked Dier for some time now and his ongoing pursuit of the versatile England international suggests he is high on his list of targets.
All stats were according to WhoScored.com