Manchester United travelled to the London Stadium on Sunday looking to solidify their position in the top four. But, things didn’t go to play for Erik ten Hag’s side, as they were upstaged by a well-organised, dogged and determined West Ham side, and one player who was head and shoulders above the rest was Declan Rice.
Rice, 24, who replaced West Ham legend Mark Noble as captain when he hung up his boots at the end of last term, is believed to be on the move this summer due to his contract expiring a year later in 2024. And, after the midfielder’s display against Manchester United, there’s a good chance he caught Ten Hag’s eye, with the Dutchman wanting to do further work to his squad this summer.
One criticism levied at the current United squad is that there are a lot of individuals and a lack of leaders, but Rice, as proven countless times before, most recently on Sunday, is very much a team player and a leader, on and off the pitch. And, while United do generally start games as favourites, Premier League betting odds would swing further in their favour if Rice was to arrive, based on these qualities alone. But these qualities aren’t all that Rice brings to the table.
Signing Rice would be a smart investment for United, whoever the owners are at the time who finance the deal. He’s twenty-four years old, so he’s still young in football terms and has many years left in the tank. He’s already played over two hundred times in the Premier League, with over forty caps for England and counting. And he’s likely to pen a long-term deal too, which would be a bonus for anyone shelling out a big transfer fee to acquire his services.
Rice has always been renowned for being defensively sound, as he’s operated as a defensive-minded midfielder and even at centre-back. But, those who have watched him play for a significant period of time have always spoken about Rice having more to offer going forward, and that came to the fore against United in a big way. As well as running the midfield, the former Chelsea academy product had an impact in the final third multiple times, and on one occasion, he danced his way past the likes of Casemiro in the United box, showing excellent close control.
You won’t see many better auditions than the one by Rice at the London Stadium in West Ham’s 1-0 victory over Manchester United. But, unfortunately for Ten Hag and United, the whole world was watching, and if the takeover saga isn’t brought to a close anytime soon, then United could miss out on Rice to one of their Premier League rivals. Manchester City and Pep Guardiola are known fans, Arsenal have been linked with a serious interest, and the club who released him as a fourteen-year-old, Chelsea, have the financial power to make the move happen.