The rumour mill has been in overdrive at Manchester United over the past few days, with 18 players linked to the club in half a week. Desperate for reinforcements, hounded by agents and subject to intense scrutiny, what can be gathered from all the noise?
United want a centre forward, that much is clear. Over the last three days, the club have been linked with Mauro Icardi, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Jamie Vardy, Moussa Dembele, Alvaro Morata, Matheus Cunha, and Joao Felix.
The first two names on that list are regarded as unlikely options by the club, according to The Athletic.
Jamie Vardy will more than likely retire at Leicester, whether that be at the end of this season or at the end of a contract extension, while Moussa Dembele’s representatives appears to have been contacted before the summer window but are not thought to have been approached recently.
The remaining three players are all at Atletico Madrid, with the last two being complete non-starters as the La Liga giants are unwilling to sell. That leaves Morata, who is considered a “genuine possibility” by The Athletic.
United’s ambitions to add a wide attacker are also well-documented and this week’s rumour mill has not slowed down on that front either. A long-standing interest in Ajax winger Antony looks unlikely to bear fruit, with an €80m price tag placing the Brazilian out of reach. Sky Sports News are reporting that United may go back in with an offer, but Ajax have a habit of only selling on their own terms.
Manchester United back in for Ajax forward Antony. Told what’s been described as a “massive offer” will be presented to Ajax this week. United tried to sign him earlier this window but big gap in valuation. #Antony #MUFC #Ajax
— Dharmesh Sheth (@skysports_sheth) August 17, 2022
Also of the Eredivisie is Cody Gakpo, although any move there will have to wait until next week’s match between PSV Eindhoven and Rangers, with the Dutch side standing to pot £30m via involvement in the Champions League should they win their playoff match.
Just as a trio of Atletico strikers have been linked over these past three days, a surplus at Chelsea looks likely to present United with an opportunity. Hakim Ziyech appears to be an Erik ten Hag suggestion, but the higher-ups at United have pushed back over the Moroccan, as per Samuel Luckhurst.
Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic both fit the age profile more and are both looking to leave Chelsea. In the case of Hudson-Odoi, there has been little to establish United’s interest besides the fact that the player is available. With Pulisic however, the reliable Andy Mitten has confirmed the Red Devils’ appreciation for the player and even suggests that the American would be keen on a move to Old Trafford.
In midfield, Erik ten Hag is said to want two new players by the window’s end. While United’s determination is fixed on one of those players being long-standing target Frenkie de Jong, week 15 of that pursuit looks to be a fairly negative one, with Mitchel van der Kraan alleging that the agreement between Barcelona and the Reds must now be renegotiated, although no one seems to be too clear on why.
Stepping away from that particular mess, negotiations between United and Adrien Rabiot have broken down according to David Ornstein. With Rabiot a free agent next summer, it is believed that his agent/mother demanded a pay packet that would have seen the Frenchman paid substantially more than the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen, given what she believes could be on offer out of contract.
The big name to have emerged this week is Real Madrid lynchpin Casemiro. The Brazilian is under consideration by the United hierarchy, with Ornstein stating that he is among the alternatives to Rabiot during the club’s “live talks.” While he may fancy a change of scenery having won everything possible in Madrid, even those at Old Trafford consider him a “long shot.”
Ornstein’s report also suggests that Moises Caicedo has been among the midfielders “pushed to” the Old Trafford side. Sky Sports are reporting that United are expected to bid for the Ecuadorian, despite Brighton’s insistence that the player is not for sale. With the player represented by his family who themselves are Manchester United fans, this could be a midfielder the club actually can sign, fee permitting.
Whether that would count as the “elite player” United are confident of signing is unclear although it is highly unlikely that they will be happy to fall short of Ten Hag’s aforementioned insistence on two midfielders, nor give up on De Jong entirely until they have no option but to.
While United would still be short a right back, a goalkeeper and arguably a few more positions, filtering through what has been the silliest section of the silly season leaves United fans with three deals that at least look like they may happen for the Red Devils, given that there is interest from both club and player. Two of those deals even involve a club willing to sell the player, in Morata and Pulisic. Caicedo could be its own mini saga, with Brighton having already shown the value of their resolve this summer by extracting £55m for Marc Cucurella.
Here is how that could leave United in September:
But if you’ve come here for a full blown Silly Season XI:
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