Manchester United will reportedly have to look elsewhere in their quest to sign a new central midfielder this summer after links to Declan Rice were firmly slammed shut.
The Red Devils are preparing for what is likely going to be one of their busiest summers for many a year. With Erik ten Hag set to take charge, the club needs to make wholesale changes to their playing staff. Indeed, a report has revealed that as many as 12 first-team players could depart Old Trafford.
Clearly the Dutchman has a massive task on his hands. United have badly under-performed this season and look highly unlikely to qualify for the Champions League.
They have fallen a long way behind the standards set by Manchester City and Liverpool too. That was perhaps best emphasised by the Merseysiders overcoming them by an aggregate scoreline of 9-0 this season.
As such, work will begin immediately over ways in which United can close that gap and ultimately, overhaul their rivals.
And it will clearly take a lot of money to turn the juggernaut around and get them challenging for silverware again.
First up, Ten Hag will likely need to bring in several new attackers. Decisions will need to be made over Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo. On the subject of the Portuguese, Roy Keane has already advised United of what to do over his future.
The new United boss will also desperately want to strengthen his midfield. To that end, reports on Tuesday suggested he was the Red Devils’ No 1 target this summer.
United prepping a bid
And despite David Moyes placing a prohibitive £150m valuation on the star, United were reported to be prepping a package to lure him to Old Trafford.
However, their hopes of landing Rice are seemingly over before they have even begun. That’s after a report in the Daily Mail claimed the midfielder has decided to stay at West Ham for ‘at least one more season’.
In an exclusive article, they state Rice will reject any attempts from United to sign him this summer. In addition, they state the Hammers are ‘assured’ that Rice will not be looking to move on this summer.
Furthermore, they state Rice intends to stay to ensure he becomes the club’s official club captain next season. And while Rice often takes the armband, that official title currently belongs to the long-serving Mark Noble.
The Hammers legend will finally hang up his boots this summer, passing the mantle on to Rice.
Declan Rice in line to become club legend
A source told the paper: “I believe he is staying for at least a year and maybe beyond that. He has been nothing short of decent to the club and the fans.
“There is still a new contract to be negotiated and he will become the highest paid West Ham player.
“The club are comfortable with the way things are proceeding and Declan’s respectful way he is going about things.
“When he kissed the badge and ran towards the West Ham fans in Lyon after he scored in the Europa Cup, it just underlined what he feels about the club and the supporters.
“Declan will likely be England captain one day and it is not lost to many at the club that he is following in the footsteps of our greatest player Bobby Moore who lifted the World Cup as a West Ham player.”
Rice’s contract expires in summer 2024 and there are reports that he may even look to extend that arrangement.
The source added: “It is difficult for him to say anything publicly, but you just have to examine the passion and dedication he shows wearing the West Ham shirt to see where his heart remains.”
Star right to bide his time
Declan Rice has everything he needs at West Ham and has no reason whatsoever to make the move to Old Trafford this summer.
The Hammers have proven this season that the Red Devils, as things stand, cannot offer Rice any more in terms of winning trophies.
Furthermore, the pressure to perform would be huge by switching to Manchester United, particularly as it would likely be for a British record fee.
Instead, Rice can continue to develop his game and underline his status as one of the Premier League’s elite midfielders.
Further down the line, a return to Chelsea – another club Rice holds dear to his heart – cannot be ruled out.
But the Blues will not be making a move this summer. Thomas Tuchel’s priorities will lie in strengthening a defence that is severely weakened by a number of exits.
Chelsea are losing Antonio Rudiger this summer, while Andreas Christensen also looks likely to depart. There are also suggestions that Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta could be on their way too.
As such, Chelsea will target defenders, rather than midfielders, when this summer’s market opens for business.