Manchester United are preparing for a period of change with Ajax manager Erik ten Hag expected to take over at Old Trafford this summer. The Dutchman will be faced with a reconstruction job and much of his focus will surely be on the midfield unit. This is, after all, where many of United’s problems this season have been rooted.
Paul Pogba will likely leave Manchester United as a free agent this summer, giving ten Hag and the recruitment staff at the club the freedom to reshape the centre of the pitch. Reports claim United will move for at least one new midfielder this season. Here are five targets that help fix their team.
Ten Hag’s Ajax play with a double pivot in central midfield and Edson Alvarez is the one who anchors everything. The Mexican gives Ryan Gravenberch the freedom he requires to drive the ball forward and provides Ajax with the structure needed to sustain their attack. All of this would improve Manchester United.
Alvarez is a destroyer in the way he breaks up opposition attacks and has the anticipation to step-in and intercept in areas of danger. United’s defensive struggles this season can be partially attributed to the lack of protection offered to them by the likes of Fred and Scott McTominay. Alvarez would quickly become a central pillar of ten Hag’s new team.
RB Leipzig have provided a springboard to many top-level players over the years and Konrad Laimer could be next to use the club to make the step up. The 24-year-old is a midfield anchor, but is more than just a destroyer. It’s certainly true that he can snuff out opposition attacks, but his passing ability is what marks him out.
Laimer has registered four goals and four assists in 21 Bundesliga appearances this season with new RB Leipzig manager Domenico Tedesco a fan of the central midfielder. Laimer might feel he can still achieve more in German football, but Manchester United would be improved as a team by his signing.
Gareth Southgate knows what Kalvin Phillips offer with the 26-year-old a key member of the England team that made a run to the final of Euro 2020 last summer. Phillips is a strong passer of the ball and is skilled at starting attacks from deep, something that would help spark Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho into life for Manchester United.
The Leeds United midfielder screens the back four and is among the best in the Premier League at making interceptions and stopping opposition attacks. However, Phillips’ recent injury track record would surely be cause for concern. Could ten Hag depend on the England international to stay fit?
There is no better midfield anchor in the Premier League right now than Declan Rice. The 23-year-old has taken his game to the next level this season and is a central figure for a West Ham team that has challenged for Champions League qualification in each of the last two seasons. Rice deserves to play at such a high level.
Rice doesn’t just offer protection and lateral coverage, he is exceptional at driving the ball forward at his feet. The England international would, however, likely cost Manchester United a Premier League record transfer fee with recent reports stating West Ham want around £150m for their prize asset.
There is no shortage of interest in Monaco youngster Aurelien Tchouameni. The 21-year-old is already a full France international and is reportedly on the radar of most elite level clubs including Chelsea and Real Madrid. Tchouameni’s arrival at Old Trafford would be a statement of intent and would underline Manchester United’s intent to revamp their midfield.
Tchouameni can play as a number six, but is also capable as a number eight. The youngster is comfortable with the ball at his feet and has the physical attributes to cover a lot of ground. United need leaders and Tchouameni has already captained Monaco despite his young age. In a lot of ways, he fits the bill.