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5 Defensive midfielders Manchester United can sign this summer

After a few turbulent months, Manchester United dramatically turned their Premier League season around and ended their campaign with an impressive third-place finish. Despite a journey that was packed with injuries, poor decisions and misfortunes, they’ve qualified for next season’s UEFA Champions League.

The signing of Bruno Fernandes from Sporting CP midway through the season proved to be the catalyst for United’s emphatic turnaround.

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The Portuguese maestro galvanised the club’s mentality and especially their midfield upon his arrival in Manchester. His eight goals and seven assists in just 14 games proved to be vital for the Red Devils’ top-four push.

Another reason for their turnaround was the revival of many players, including one Nemanja Matic. Seemingly on his way out as recently as January, Matic looked revitalised in the second half of the season.

His ability to perfectly complement both Bruno and Paul Pogba in midfield allowed them to wreak havoc while the Serb calmly recycled possession in midfield. The 31-year-old earned himself a new deal with his stellar performances.

However, due to a lack of able deputy for Matic in the squad, United’s lack of depth in defensive midfield is concerning.

They are rumoured to be in the market for a deep midfielder, and here, we take a look at five options for them to consider this summer.

#5 Idrissa Gana Gueye | Paris Saint-Germain | Age: 30

Paris Saint-Germain’s tough-tackling midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye was reportedly a transfer target for United before his return to Ligue 1. However, PSG beat them to his signature in the summer of 2019 for €30m.

The former Everton destroyer played a crucial role in PSG’s title win in his debut season at the capital club. He started 19 of the champions’ 27 games in the league campaign (the season was curtailed due to COVID-19).

#4 Eduardo Camavinga | Rennes | Age: 17

The latest Ligue 1 sensation to be linked with moves to the continent’s elite clubs, Eduardo Camavinga, has enjoyed a superb breakthrough season at Rennes.

The young Frenchman has impressed massively and has already been named as a prominent target for Real Madrid. There have already been reports of an €80m Los Blancos bid rejected for Camavinga.

At the age of 17, he’s established himself as a crucial part of Rennes’ midfield, sitting right at the heart of proceedings. The metronomic teenager has a very straightforward approach to the game, focusing primarily on winning the ball back and helping his side retain possession.

He doesn’t necessarily pull off too many flashy passes or flicks and tricks with the ball, and is very secure when in possession.

Camavinga averages roughly 40 passes a game at an accuracy of 87.7%.However, it is his tackling prowess that has received massive praise from all over. Camavinga’s wiry frame and long legs give him an immense reach, allowing him to win the ball back in the trickiest of situations.

In his 2112 minutes of league football across 25 games, he averaged a stunning 4.2 (!) tackles per game, one of the highest figures in Europe. He could give United a younger alternative to Matic, and is someone who can play an enormous role in their midfield for years to come.

#3 Adrien Rabiot | Juventus | Age: 25

Adrien Rabiot, formerly of Paris Saint-Germain, has been linked with a move to United for many summers now. The Frenchman ultimately moved to Italian champions Juventus on a free transfer in 2019, and has come into his own especially after the lockdown.

Rabiot is a versatile player, capable of playing in defensive midfield, central midfield, and in attacking roles as well. His versatility is one of the reasons for Barcelona seriously considered signing him, until the deal eventually fell through.

Although it is worth noting that he’s spent of his recent games in central midfield, the towering Frenchman adept at playing as a deep-lying midfielder. Rabiot played 27 Serie A games this season, averaging 40 passes and 1.6 tackles per game.

Although he isn’t a specialist in recycling possession, he could provide United with a fascinating profile in midfield.

#2 Wilfred Ndidi | Leicester City | Age: 23

Perhaps the player who specialises the most in winning the ball back on this list, Wilfred Ndidi is a superb option for United to consider.

Leicester City’s defensive midfielder has had a significant impact at the King Power Stadium since his €17.6m move in January 2017.

Ndidi has been in immaculate form in the Premier League this year, driving their push for European football from the base of midfield. The Nigerian destroyer has averaged an astonishing four tackles and 2.5 interceptions per game in 2019/20.

His ability to float around the deep areas and regularly recycle possession for his team has allowed his more creative teammates to express themselves freely. He has shown a knack of being able to promptly launch counters as well, averaging 2.5 long balls per game.

The Red Devils have done business with the Foxes in the recent past as United forcefully took Harry Maguire to Old Trafford for a world-record fee. In a similar vein, Ndidi is sure to cost Ole Gunnar Solskjaer a small fortune. Should they manage to pull it off, though, the 23-year-old could give the Norwegian a rock-solid base in midfield to build on.

#1 Declan Rice | West Ham United | Age: 21

Considered to be a key target for Chelsea, Manchester United and other clubs this year, Declan Rice has established himself as one of the most reliable midfielders in the league.

The Englishman has been a warrior in midfield for a struggling West Ham side, having astonishingly played every minute of the Hammers’ league campaign.Rice is a multi-faceted defensive midfielder who offers his side more than just a ball-winner.

The 21-year-old has an engine that allows him to cover every blade of grass on the pitch for 90 minutes and put in tireless shifts for his side. He’s also displayed a penchant for playing line-breaking passes from deeper areas.

As for his defensive duties, he’s been West Ham’s busiest midfielder in 2019/20 having averaged 3.1 tackles and two interceptions per game. The Englishman has also played approximately 46 passes per game at an accuracy of 86%, including an average of 3.4 long balls.

Having begun his career as a centre-half, Rice could also slot into United’s defence alongside Maguire should the situation demand it.

Although there was talk of West Ham potentially cashing in on Rice, their survival in the top-flight could mean that they will command an enormous fee for him. Manchester United would take some doing to lure their Hammer of the Year to Old Trafford, but if they do, they will be getting themselves a massively talented player.

 

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