Manchester United’s failure to sign a defensive midfielder last is one of the main reasons Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lost his job.
The position simply cannot go unaddressed this summer yet again, although shifting priorities have altered the landscape a little.
Solskjaer hoped he had enough firepower to make up for the midfield deficiency and he would get to summer 2022, able to spend £100 million on Declan Rice to complete his squad. Not so fast.
Multiple positions need addressing
Approached by a supporter at the weekend who asked for deals for Declan Rice, Jules Kounde and Erling Haaland, interim manager Ralf Rangnick simply responded, ‘You’re dreaming’.
He’s not wrong. United can’t drop £100 million on a defensive midfielder, and sign a striker, a winger, a Paul Pogba replacement and also reinforce right-back and centre-back.
The club have to be more pragmatic, which is where reports of a potential move for Sporting star Joao Palhinha comes in.
Palhinha available on the cheap
The Mirror reports Sporting are willing to listen to offers starting at £20 million for defensive midfielder Joao Palhinha.
Palhinha, 26, has been watched by United scouts eight times this season, Portuguese newspaper Record report.
Sporting want £20 million plus performance related add-ons for the star, who is Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes’ international teammate. We first picked him out last summer as a player United should sign.
This is the type of deal which could be incredibly smart for United, as the club would be signing one of Europe’s top defensive midfielders at a knockdown price, enabling other deals too.
Rather than spending the entire budget on Declan Rice, a move for Palhinha allows United to fix the other positions too, and more and more areas of need have been cropping up over the course of the season.
This summer is not about adding one or two signings to tip the squad over the edge. A big overhaul is required, with a clear out of players who do not want to be here.
For just north of £20 million, a move for Palhinha could be crucial to getting United’s summer rebuild right.