According to reports, Manchester United remain keen on West Ham midfielder Declan Rice as signing a defensive midfielder is high on their priority list this summer. Moreover, it seems the England international is also keen on a switch and might be willing to move to Old Trafford.
Manchester United are preparing to make Paul Pogba the highest-paid player in the Premier League with a new long-term contract, as per reports. This indicates that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer would want to continue using the same formation as last season.
Ole tinkered with a 4-3-3 system at the back end of last season and looks likely to stick with it in 2021/22, allowing Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes a licence to roam and wreak havoc in the final third. While the prospect of Pogba sticking around alongside Fernandes is likely to have most United fans licking their lips, it does beg the question as to who will anchor the midfield that allows Pogba and Fernandes such freedom.
Fred and Scott McTominay might feel they have a good chance of getting selected after being used extensively in Solskjaer’s 4-2-3-1 system last season. However, there is one prime candidate out there that could blow both out of the water if United are prepared to pay what it takes to sign him.
Both Pogba and Fernandes were involved in a congested 2020/21 campaign and are also involved in this summer’s Euro 2020 finals. A recent academic study found that a period of sustained fixture congestion could hamper the intensity of players’ runs and movements, even if they managed to cover similar distances over the whole 90 minutes. Solskjaer and his team will already be planning a recuperation period for Messrs Pogba and Fernandes to ensure they are firing on all cylinders from August.
Pogba and Fernandes need a pivot they can rely on
What is clear is that, once fully fit, Pogba and Fernandes will need protection behind them to go forward and penetrate Premier League defences. West Ham midfielder Declan Rice could provide that protection for United. The England international could be the perfect pivot player for a three-man midfield, retaining possession, switching play, and maintaining the tempo against the more defensive sides in the Premier League.
— Jack⚒ (@_WHUJack) June 26, 2021
Without a steady midfield pivot, United would be criminally exposed in a 4-3-3 system. With neither Fred nor McTominay seemingly trusted enough to act as the sole defensive midfielder, securing the services of Declan Rice should be the number one priority for United this summer.
Is Rice more of a necessity for United’s new system than Sancho?
The focus on Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho is exciting and perplexing in equal measure. For a three-man forward line, United already have a wealth of attacking options in their squad with Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, and Anthony Martial all pushing to start on either side of central target man Edinson Cavani.
Some might question whether United should be spending a large chunk of its transfer budget on another forward, despite an impressive tally of 22 goals and 14 assists among the three in the Premier League last term.
According to Eurosport, Declan Rice is open to the idea of leaving despite the Hammers qualifying to play in the Europa League next season. Man City, Man United, Liverpool & Chelsea have all been linked to the midfielder, and Rice is interested in joining a Champions League side pic.twitter.com/kmLveDuyuS
— Frank Khalid (@FrankKhalidUK) June 22, 2021
Sports journalist Dean Jones believes Rice is inclining to the opinion that his time with the Hammers is up this summer. Speaking on the Football Terrace, Jones said:
“I spoke to someone over the weekend who knows Declan pretty well, and I just said to him: ‘where’s his head at?’ I’ve always been of the belief that Declan Rice just won’t leave West Ham right now.”
“And he said ‘actually you’d be surprised.’ He said he’s leaning towards being very open to leaving if the right offer comes along.”
After helping West Ham to their highest Premier League finish in over 20 years, with a record points total of 65, Rice may just feel that this is the limit of the Hammers’ potential. Having been handed a taste of life as a regular in the England senior squad over the last 12 months, Rice may see a move to Old Trafford as a way of strengthening his international chances in the coming years.
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Although some reports suggest that Chelsea are the front-runners for Rice’s signature, having spent eight years at the Blues academy between 2006 and 2014, United may win over Chelsea in terms of the competition for places. Chelsea already have Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, and N’Golo Kante in the middle of the park.
Whereas United don’t yet have a senior defensive midfielder they can hang their hat on with veteran Nemanja Matic not viewed as part of Solskjaer’s long-term plans at Old Trafford. This might tip the scales in United’s favour. Declan Rice is valued around the £70m mark by the West Ham hierarchy, which could be achievable by Manchester United.
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