Manchester United have been linked with a number of top players this summer, but Erik ten Hag might want to revisit one of his former charges in order to help rebuild the side at Old Trafford
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Manchester United are expected to flex their financial muscle this summer and buy their way out of trouble once again, but with Erik ten Hag calling the shots, they’d do well to be sensible with their budget.
The Red Devils are believed to want a new striker, central midfielder and centre-back in a squad overhaul. However, only the latter is truly needed.
Much has been made of Harry Maguire’s struggles, and at times it’s hard to argue he’s not just been a scapegoat for the club’s woes on the pitch.
Raphael Varane has suffered from injuries but has looked sublime whenever he’s played, and neither Victor Lindelof or Eric Bailly are capable of playing regularly in a title-challenging team, which United will expect to be next season.
Ten Hag is expected to return to his old club to make a move for exciting winger Antony, and will also work with outcast midfielder Donny van de Beek once more. But another of his former players, Matthijs de Ligt, would be the perfect marquee signing this summer.
De Ligt already escaped United’s clutches once before, when they attempted to buy him from Ajax in 2019. Instead, they were forced to watch as super agent Mino Raiola took him to Juventus.
Now, he could be on the market once again, and what better move for him than to reunite with his old head coach at Old Trafford? De Ligt’s arrival would give Varane a world-class operator alongside him, and give Ten Hag the flexibility to play three at the back if he wanted to.
The centre of defence is the only area of United’s team they can’t currently improve from within, and therefore that should be their main focus once the window opens.
Unless they splash their entire budget and somehow convince Tottenham to sell them Harry Kane, they’re not going to get an improvement on Cristiano Ronaldo. They’re also unlikely to get anyone in to replace Paul Pogba who would be a better fit than Van de Beek.
While there will be other positions to improve – notably a new right-back to replace or provide support for Aaron Wan-Bissaka – United know the value of a good central defensive unit, it was always the cornerstone of Sir Alex Ferguson’s all-conquering sides in the past.
This summer, De Ligt will be on the market due to a release clause inserted in his contract. That release clause, however, is believed to be worth a whopping €130million (£109m).
United instead should look to employ a tactic their rivals, Liverpool, have used in the past and try to reduce that asking price before striking and making a bid. The Premier League title challengers did so with Luis Diaz in the January window, and are reaping the rewards.
De Ligt is the ideal target for United this summer, and it seems they’ve got a perfect route towards signing him.