Given the recent news that Real Madrid are set to up the ante in their pursuit of Borussia Dortmund starlet Jude Bellingham, it has now become pressing that Manchester United match their opponent’s drive.
It is no surprise that Los Blancos are already beginning their campaign to lure Bellingham to the Bernabéu. The Athletic has reported that a host of European giants will be vying for his signature next summer.
United have been long-time admirers of the Birmingham local having scouted him since he was 12 years of age. But why is it critical that they battle for the transfer this summer?
Firstly, Bellingham’s youthfulness in combination with his already impeccable qualities and mature attitude suggest that he will be a world-beater for at least the next decade.
Fernandes is the only one of the aforementioned trio below the age of 30 (he turned 28 last month). Ten Hag’s famous Ajax side of 2019 featured Donny van de Beek and Frenkie de Jong – two midfielders who were in their early twenties at the time.
It is this neglect of youthful midfield energy and tenacity which would make Bellingham such an alluring addition to Ten Hag’s current options.
Furthermore, could Ten Hag’s consistent history of progressing young players into superstars influence Bellingham’s decision-making?
His dynamism in conjunction with his age seems incredibly suitable to a side lacking adaptability and vitality.
Moreover, United have shown that they are not afraid to empty their pockets for the appropriate young player. For example, Jadon Sancho cost £75million; Antony cost £85million; Anthony Martial and Amad Diallo’s fees including potential add-ons were agreed to reach £58million and £40million, respectively.
Although the Dortmund chiefs are said to be expecting bids north of £100million, United’s vast recruitment last summer in combination with Ten Hag’s tendency to use the academy could make Bellingham a sole focus for the next major transfer window.
Secondly, Bellingham’s style of play seems to fit well with what United are aiming for at this moment in time. Erik ten Hag has shown his desire for the team to push teams back.
Sofascore have noted that one of Bellingham’s main attributes is his high pressing. Indeed, he averages 0.53 tackles in the opposition third per 90 minutes, lodging him into the top 95th percentile amongst fellow midfielders, according to FB Ref.
Meanwhile, his proficiency in playing in midfield is already world-class. Bellingham averages 10.67 passes under pressure per 90 minutes. This places him in the 92nd percentile when compared to his peers.
Although Bellingham likes to dribble up the pitch from deep (he averages 1.77 completed dribbles per match), it is his fearlessness in making himself available ahead of the ball which stands out.
The youngster receives 5.26 progressive passes per 90. This puts him into the 96th percentile of midfielders for the same action.
United’s lack of midfield options – whether that be in deep midfield or attacking midfield – has been laughable.
Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelöf were often attempting wonder balls to the wingers last season as their search for an available teammate in midfield was often unsuccessful.
Bellingham’s excellent technical qualities and mature style of play would see him as an ideal fit for this United side and for Erik ten Hag’s philosophies as a manager who favours brave, tenacious, attacking ideals.
Thirdly, and quite aptly following discussion about Bellingham’s qualities, United’s midfield depth is inadequate.
Even if they were to be considered as squad players, there is not enough quality in depth to compensate for the prime midfielders of Eriksen, Casemiro, and Fernandes.
Carlo Ancelotti displayed during Madrid’s title-winning La Liga campaign last season how vital it is to have an exceptional midfield rotation, for example.
Bellingham could become a key cog in developing United’s midfield into a competitive, dominating machine that would not have to be reliant on one member of the squad performing to a high degree.
Ten Hag wanted Frenkie de Jong to be that player last summer. But it is clear that the Dutchman does not want to leave Barcelona.
Indeed, Bellingham has rejected United before. After meeting with Bryan Robson, Sir Alex Ferguson and Solskjær’s staff, his family decided that Dortmund and the Bundesliga would be the best fit for a player who had just turned 17.
Is now the ideal time for him to make the move and supplement United’s midfield depth? Is now the ideal time for him to showcase his cultured and superior talents at Old Trafford? Is now the ideal time for United to secure another young starlet’s signature?