Though Paul Pogba’s return to form in midfield has been a boon for Manchester United, the club still need to put the right players around him as they look to build a team that can challenge for major honours again.
Fred has begun to find his feet, Nemanja Matic brings title-winning experience, Ander Herrera is a warrior whose skills are underrated, and Andreas Pereira and Scott McTominay have impressed at times during their United tenure. But there’s no doubt that the centre-midfield corps could use an upgrade.
Dream: Marco Verratti
Signing Marco Verratti is likely a pipe dream, and he’s probably not on any realistic transfer target list being drawn up at United. The indications this season have been that Verratti is ready to sign a long-term contract at Paris Saint-Germain.
But having been on the pitch when United completed their miracle Champions League comeback against PSG this season, Verratti could be forgiven for wondering if he’s at the right club for ultimate success.
PSG have been knocked out of the Champions League at the round-of-16 stage for three-straight seasons, and they’ve never been past the quarter-finals in Verratti’s time at the club. At 26, and already one of the best central midfielders in the world, perhaps it’s time for the Italian to look for pastures new.
He might cost an astronomical transfer fee, but it would be worth it for United: they’d get to play him alongside Paul Pogba and boast of one of the best midfield pairings in the world.
Realistic: Tanguy Ndombele
Verratti might be unattainable, but United wouldn’t have to look too far away from the PSG man to find a player who could help bolster their midfield.
Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele has been one of the stars of Ligue 1 this season, helping keep the side in the race for the Champions League spots.
In Ndombele, United would be getting a player who’s the complete package. He has the second-most assists among Lyon players this season, while also being one of his team’s best defensive players.
The 22-year-old would be the perfect player to take over from Nemanja Matic, and his age also makes him a tempting signing as United could watch him develop into a top-class midfielder and then hopefully keep him through his prime. He’s being quoted at around £68.5 million, which is not too high a fee to be paying in today’s market – though PSG, Barcelona, Tottenham, and Manchester City are all thought to be monitoring him along with United.
Tanguy Ndombèlè’s game by numbers vs. Montpellier:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) March 17, 2019
100% tackles won
105 passes completed
23 final third passes
5 ball recoveries
5 chances created
A big move looking more likely by the week. 🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/OybCZZZkci
Alternative: Adrien Rabiot
They don’t get cheaper than free transfers, though United would have to pay agents’ fees and meet Adrien Rabiot’s no doubt hefty wage demands to sign him.
And there are questions over his attitude, reinforced by his contract standoff with PSG and the fact that he withdrew from France’s World Cup squad last summer after being named as a standby player.
But at his best he’s one of the best young midfielders in the world. When a player like that is available, you sign him first and deal with whatever non-footballing issues there are later. Getting the 23-year-old Rabiot on a free would be nothing short of a transfer coup for United.
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