Manchester United are understood to be targeting the signing of a midfielder during the January transfer window, as Ralf Rangnick seeks increased balance in the Red Devils’ engine room.
The addition of a defensive-minded midfielder is viewed as being crucial to the club’s hopes of progress, with their current midfield options having attracted criticism during the opening months of the season.
With the Red Devils’ hierarchy reportedly prepared to back interim manager Rangnick next month, we’ve decided to look at five potential options the club could target to strengthen their side.
Amadou Haidara has been linked with a move to the Premier League since Rangnick’s arrival as interim manager, with the midfielder having impressed at Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig during Rangnick’s reign as director of football at the Red Bull-owned clubs.
The Mali international is understood to possess a release clause of £33m in his contract at the Bundesliga side, making him attainable should the Red Devils makes their move in the winter window.
The 23-year-old is tenacious and comfortable either as a midfield anchor or in a box-to-box role, whilst he is accustomed to the pressing football that Rangnick looks set to implement at Old Trafford.
🗣️ Amadou Haidara on transfer rumours:
"Everyone had a fabourite team as a kid. Mine was 𝐌𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐡𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐔𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐝. I was a big fan of Cristiano Ronaldo. I liked Paul Scholes, Patrice Evra, Edwin Van Der Sar, Anderson. But I'm at Leipzig and I feel good." 👀 #MUFC pic.twitter.com/Q49Wm5iLf2
— Man United News (@ManUtdMEN) December 16, 2021
His participation in the Africa Cup of Nations next month complicates a potential deal, but Haidara is a player who can improve United in both the short and longer-term.
Haidara has averaged 1.4 tackles and 3.7 ground duels won per 90 minutes so far this season, whilst his ability to burst forward and carry the ball in possession is evidenced with 1.4 take-ons per game this season – the highest figure of any name on this shortlist.
Kalvin Phillips has been tentatively linked with a move to Manchester United in recent months, in what would represent a controversial transfer should the Leeds midfielder cross the Pennines to sign for his boyhood side’s northern rivals.
Phillips has established himself as a key figure for club and country in recent seasons, starring during England’s run to the final of Euro 2020 to be named as the Three Lions’ Player of the Year.
The 26-year-old is currently sidelined until February with a hamstring issue, but could be ready to leave a Leeds side who have struggled this season amid mounting injury problems.
Phillips has so far failed to agree an extension to his Leeds contract that has a little more than two years left to run, and the Whites could cash in before his value drops amid Champions League interest.
However, with Leeds in the midst of a relegation battle at present it appears unlikely the side would allow a crucial component to depart mid-season.
Wilfred Ndidi could provide another Premier League proven option for Manchester United, with the Nigeria international having established himself as one of the division’s leading defensive midfielders in recent campaigns.
No midfielder in the division has bettered Ndidi for tackles per game in 2021/22, whilst he leads this five-man shortlist for duels contested (14.1), tackles made (3.5), aerial duels won (2.3), ground duels won (5.3) and interceptions (2.2) for 90 minutes so far this season.
Leicester will be loathe to lose the 25-year-old who is entering his prime, but the Foxes have shown a willingness to sell on their prized possessions should huge offers arrive from Premier League rivals. N’Golo Kante, Riyad Mahrez, Danny Drinkwater, Harry Maguire and Ben Chilwell are amongst those to have left the King Power Stadium for large sums in recent windows.
Ndidi would instantly improve the spine of Rangnick’s side and provide much-needed presence, both in terms of physical stature and his prolific ability to regain possession at the base of the midfield.
Manchester United have been heavily linked with a move for Boubaca Kamara in recent weeks, the Marseille midfielder expected to leave the French side in the coming months as he approaches the end of his contract at the The Stade Vélodrome.
Comfortable in a midfield anchor role or at centre-back, the 22-year-old’s strengths fit the profile of player the Red Devils are believed to be interested in, excelling in ball-winning abilities.
Kamara wins duels, can press and is intelligent in his interceptions, whilst his talents in possession are also notable with an impressive pass accuracy of 89.7% in Ligue 1 this season and an average of 18.6 forward passes per 90 minutes – the highest figure of any name on this list.
🇫🇷 Boubacar Kamara could become available on a free transfer next summer…
🤔 🔴 Should Man Utd be looking at snapping the 22 year old on the cheap in January? pic.twitter.com/WZfIGUkBlA
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) December 15, 2021
Last season the midfielder ranked amongst the top 25% of u23 midfielders for ball retention and ball winning amongst Europe’s top five leagues, whilst he has already amassed considerable experience after making more than a century of appearances for Marseille since coming through the ranks.
Out of contract next summer, he could be available for a cut-price fee in January, though he is believed to be keeping his options open at present with Barcelona also understood to be monitoring his situation.
Franck Kessie has been regularly linked with a move to the Premier League in recent windows, with United, Liverpool and Tottenham having all been credited with an interest in the AC Milan midfielder.
Like Kamara, the Ivory Coast international is out of contract next summer after failing to agree a new deal at the San Siro and will be free to negotiate a pre-contract agreement with foreign sides next month.
Kessie has the attributes to be a defensive screen for the Red Devils, though can provide a more all-action mould and is often at his best when using his dynamism to break opposition lines.
He has averaged an impressive four ground duels won per 90 minutes – second only to Ndidi amongst this list – for Milan this season, whilst his pass accuracy of 90.3% is a leading figure on this shortlist.
Kessie’s energy and drive is suited to the high-intensity that Ralf Rangnick will hope to implement and a cut-price deal could materialise in the winter window. Milan lost both Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu on free transfers last summer and will be loathe to lose another key figure for nothing.