Here’s an odd one. The Mail report Manchester United are among the clubs linked with Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles.
The report states United have ‘shown an interest’ in the defender, along with three other Premier League clubs.
Before dismissing this one entirely, lets take a look at why United might be interested.
Talented and versatile option
Maitland-Niles was part of the Arsenal starting XI which beat Chelsea in the 2020 FA Cup final.
He started that game as left wing-back, and his versatility is one of his assets.
This season, Mikel Arteta could not guarantee him regular playing time and he chose to move to West Brom on loan in January. He made 12 league starts for the Baggies, compared to five for Arsenal in the first part of the season.
This season alone, Maitland-Niles has lined up at left-back, right-back, and defensive midfield.
The 23-year-old has been capped at senior level by England five times, featuring for the Three Lions earlier this season. Leeds and Everton are among the other sides said to be interested.
He has a good record against United, starting at right-back in Arsenal’s 2-0 win in January 2020, and was a substitute in their surprise 1-0 win at Old Trafford earlier this year. He also featured for West Brom as they held United to a 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns earlier in 2021. It’s possible he has caught Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s eye somewhere down the line, or impressed one of United’s coaching staff.
A lot would need to go right…
The report states United’s interest in Maitland-Niles extends to his ability to play a right-back. It does not specify whether this is fresh interest from United, or whether he is a player the club have simply run the rule over, and moved on from.
United have Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right-back as clear first choice, and that won’t be changing.
The only way in for Maitland-Niles, which is feasible, is if Diogo Dalot is sold after his loan to AC Milan, Brandon Williams is sent out on loan, and Ethan Laird is also loaned again.
United may consider Maitland-Niles could cover Wan-Bissaka, while also providing depth in other areas, and competition in future seasons for Laird and Williams to overcome.
However, the player might not be so enamoured with a back-up role, having left Arsenal in order to play regular football. Unlike Arsenal next season though, United will be able to offer European football.
The Guardian reported he came close to a £20 million move for Wolves last summer before deciding to stay and fight for his place. Arsenal are likely to want to move him on this summer, to raise funds.
Unlikely, but worth noting…
We would rate this rumour as one which is unlikely to come off. It’s the type of deal United may only consider in the final fortnight of the transfer window once, hopefully, other more meaningful transfer business is done.
Signing a back-up from Arsenal is unlikely to get fans excited either, but Maitland-Niles, 23, is something of a rough diamond. He has some talent, and just needs a manager who will believe in him.
It’s a rumour which piqued our curiousity at the least, and felt it noteworthy. Quite possibly, this the the first and last we hear of it…
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