Now that Glastonbury is in the books (personal highlights include beabadoobee, Courtney Barnett, Jack White, Noel Gallagher, Jarvis Cocker and Kendrick Lamar – also, some Macca. You have to have some Macca) it’s time to get down to business. Manchester United’s preseason finally gets underway, and Erik ten Hag will take charge of his first training session, meeting many of his players for the first time. If you thought the rumour mill was in overdrive already, just watch it really crank into gear now. So, perhaps this is a good time to take a look around at the latest gossip swirling around the club and try to predict the shape of the squad ten Hag might have at his disposal once the opening day of the season finally rolls around.
Frenkie De Jong to United
The longest running saga of them all, with more instalments than the Friday 13th film franchise, looks to be coming to a close. In a recently leaked video of his chat with friends, CEO Richard Arnold claimed chief John Murtough was working form sun up until sun down on the De Jong deal. United are said to be in daily contact with Barcelona over the transfer, and the two clubs are seemingly close on the fee. De Jong himself has been adamant from the start that he doesn’t want to leave Barcelona, and you have to question the wisdom of United making their marquee summer signing a guy who doesn’t really want to be there. It’s a lot of time expended on one person when the team needs s many more.
Ronaldo to Chelsea
I called Ronaldo’s exit in an article for this site a few weeks back, and now it seems to be coming true. Although United have vehemently shut down any idea that CR7 will be sold, I can’t see how it’s in anyone’s best interest to hold him against his will. He is demonstrative in his frustration at the best of times, never mind if he’s being held captive. At 37, Ronaldo wants to be playing in the Champions League and has no interest in sticking around for a rebuild, mentoring young kids to take his place. Therefore, a fresh start would be in everyone’s best interests.
Christian Eriksen to United
This one, more than anything, seems to hold up a harsh mirror to Manchester United in showing them how far they have fallen. They are currently embroiled in a tog of war with Brentford (yes, you read that right) to convince Eriksen to come and play with them.
Although Eriksen maintains that it is matters off the field rather than on it that will feed into his decision (i.e. moving his family from London to the cold, dank, Dickensian North – because, you know, it’s still smokestacks and cobbled streets up here), it’s hard not to balk at our seeming inability to convince a player like Ericksen to come and join us. Still, after his health issues last summer he did go and train with Ajax to recover his fitness, giving him a somewhat close relationship with ETH so maybe that will help get the deal over the line, Just, you know, beware the dangers of living in a pre-industrialised city and hope you don’t catch typhoid. It is, as they say, grim up north. (If you’re reading this, Christian, it’s not – Manchester is the best city in the country, and London, well, is not.)
Harry Maguire to Barcelona-
Well, this is a weird one, right? Wrong footed me when I heard it this morning. And it was from a reliable source, not from that guy at Piccadilly Station who eats his own fingers (I’m joking, Christian - just sign the damn contract).
Barcelona, like United, are being linked with everyone under the sun, and central defender’s chief among them. They are looking for someone to partner the imperious Ronald Araújo (himself a brief target for United, until it became evident there was just no chance of it ever happening) and have been linked with Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Sevilla’s Jules Kounde. Harry Maguire fits the mould of those other two defenders, though is undoubtedly the poorer of the three. Barca apparently tried to snag Maguire as part of the De Jong deal though, if that was the price of getting the dutchman, United would have been suicidal to agree. Maguire needs some stability and a good run of form to get his confidence back. United would be prudent to hang onto him for at least another year.
Jurrien Timber to United
This one looks to be dead in the water thanks to Louis Van Gall, former Manchester United manager, and current boss of the Dutch National team, sticking his oar in. Again. LVG apparently ‘sagely’ advised Timber that his place in the World Cup team this November would be at risk were he to join United. Sour grapes at his sacking by the Reds six years ago? A shrewd observation regarding a young player heading into the inferno that is Manchester United at the moment? Truthfully, it’s maybe a bit of both, though you have to question the conflict of interest when considering the source. I think we’d all feel better if Van Gaal kept his opinions, and his ‘wacky’ personality, to himself.
Andreas Pereira to Fulham
The Cottagers (almost certainly in the top five worst nicknames in English sport) have reportedly offered over £8 million for the Brazilian midfielder. Signed in 2014, Pereira has mostly been relegated to loan spells of late, the fourth and most recent of which was with Flamengo. Now 26, he is unlikely to figure in ETH’s plans and should continue the clearing out of deadwood the club have already undertaken with the exits of other names such as Mata, Matic, Pogba, Lingard and Cavani. United should take what they can get for him, even if it does mean doing business with a group of people who call themselves Cottagers.
Antony to United
Another on again, off again saga, most recently ‘off’ again, as his current club Ajax slapped a bumper fee of £69 million on his head, a gross inflation that no doubt serves as a rebuke to former boss ten Hag to stop trying to pilfer their players. For his part, Antony appears desperate to make what he calls a ‘dream’ move to Old Trafford though, with the Dutch champions in a strong financial position after already selling a couple of their big-name stars, and with United’s needs lying more in central midfield than on the wing, this one doesn’t look to be happening any time soon.
So, there we have it. It looks as though the best we can hope for is begging both De Jong and Eriksen to give it a try at United. Those may be our only additions this summer. If that is the case, it will prove to be a miserable summer indeed. Erik ten Hag is reportedly already frustrated with the club’s inability to land designated transfer targets, and will no doubt be even more disgruntled should anybody else be permitted to leave his already threadbare squad. Hopefully, now preseason is here, and the wheels are finally in motion towards the upcoming season, the action will pick up and there’ll be a burst of activity in the transfer market. If not, hold on tight, Red Devils, it might be another bumpy ride from here on out.