Manchester United’s contract renewal for Nemanja Matic showed the club have a short-term plan for the defensive midfield position. It was the right move to keep him after a series of excellent performances.
United’s long-term plan at the position is yet to be defined
Matic’s age, 31, makes it less likely the club would pay for a Thomas Partey, 27. A move for a player under 23 is more likely as United look to the future.
One option is Jude Bellingham, who at 16 really is a player for the future, but his coaches at Birmingham have tipped him to develop into a more attacking box-to-box player rather than an outright defensive midfielder.
Boubakary Soumare of Lille and Denis Zakaria of Moenchengladbach are also options.
Another possibility is a player whose recent links to United have gone cold, Declan Rice.
Underwhelming but viable option
Rice has been linked with a move to United for over a year now. Goal reported last year that the midfielder was a top target, with an excessive price of £80 million floated.
In many ways he ticks the boxes for United. He is young, he is British, and he already has considerable Premier League experience.
As an England international he is already used to playing with Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford.
Two reasons price could be driven down
The figures discussed around Rice are over the top. Far better value can be found for Rice than paying £70-90 million.
There are two reasons his price could come down, the first is the Euros being postponed this summer.
This stops his profile rising, with international tournaments frequently driving up the cost of players, especially when it comes to England and the media hype.
The second reason is the possibility David Moyes’ West Ham still get relegated.
There are nine games left to play and West Ham sit 16th and still have to visit Old Trafford. Even now they are level on points with 18th placed Bournemouth, separated only by goal difference.
Relegation would plunge West Ham into financial difficulty and require them to sell players. Rice would leave, and very possibly for a knock-down price.
If United miss out on Bellingham, or get him and still want another option, Declan Rice going cheap may be difficult for the club to resist.
Is he good enough?
The big question surrounding links to Declan Rice are over whether he is actually good enough for Manchester United.
He believes he is, quoted by The Independent: “I think I’ve got the ability to play for a club like that. But it’s all about the timing and I don’t think the timing is right for me at all. I’ve still got so much to learn.”
This season has been a testing one, as shown by West Ham’s league position, but that need not be a referendum on his talent. Harry Maguire once got relegated with Hull City and he is now Manchester United’s captain.
Rice has only just turned 21, is an England regular, and has more than 100 appearances for his club already.
He is a player who is only likely to improve further and United’s coaching staff will consider him a rough diamond.
Few will be impressed if United pay £80 million for Rice, it will put unfair pressure on him, and this money could be used more wisely. If the price tag comes down, which it very well might, don’t rule out a move.
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