Manchester United interim boss Ralf Rangnick has identified a tall midfielder as a top priority to essentially replace Nemanja Matic.
The Athletic reports that the German coach ‘admires’ England duo Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham, who United tried to sign from Birmingham City.
Although the Athletic has made it clear that neither of those players will leave West Ham or Borussia Dortmund in the January transfer window, it’s clear that Rangnick believes that’s an area of the United side that can be vastly improved.
Matic has made seven starts so far this season, but his ability to glide across the grass and dominate midfield isn’t what it once was.
The 33-year-old’s contract at United doesn’t expire until 2023, but if the Reds do intend to make improving our midfield options a ‘top priority’, then the Serbian could well seek a summer move.
With Paul Pogba’s long-term future looking uncertain due to contract uncertainty and Donny van de Beek remaining on the periphery of the United side, the club’s first team midfield could face a summer upheaval.
Rice and Bellingham would be quality additions
Scott McTominay and Fred continue to be United’s first choice midfield duo under Rangnick following the departure of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
But for all their popularity and energetic, battling performances, the likes of Rice and Bellingham would be a huge upgrade on the ‘McFred’ partnership.
Although Rice and Bellingham have different individual strengths to one and other, they would bring an injection of quality, and both technical and physical qualities to United’s midfield.
Both are capable of making lung-busting runs from deep, leaving the opposition in their wake, but they also thrive on doing the dirty work, which suits Rangnick’s ‘gegenpressing’ philosophy.
Rangnick’s wish of having a tall midfielder shows he wants a strong, energetic spine, that can dominate teams.
In an ideal world, it would be great to have Rice and Bellingham as our midfield duo, but it would probably take a sum around £200m to the land the pair.
With them both having long-term contracts at their respected clubs, United would also face stiff competition from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea to sign either of the England internationals.
If Erling Haaland does leave Dortmund in the summer and hopefully comes to Old Trafford, then the Bundesliga giants are highly unlikely to part ways with their two prized assets in the same window.
Regarding Rice, a lot will depend on where West Ham will finish this season. If the Hammers secure Champions League football then the 22-year-old will probably stay, but anything less and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him ask the club to sanction a big-money move.
Rangnick has made it clear what this Manchester United side needs to improve, the big question will be whether the club’s hierarchy can deliver his request.
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