Manchester United can repeat their Facundo Pellistri masterclass last year by beating Chelsea to the signing of Declan Rice from West Ham in the summer.
Rice has established himself as a first-team regular starter under David Moyes and is widely considered to be one of the best holding midfielders in the Premier League.
However, it’s claimed a move for Rice could be dictated by what happens to Paul Pogba in the summer – despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s insistence that the France international isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
The report adds Solskjaer is keen to strengthen his squad at the end of this season and a forward, central defender and a defensive midfielder will be at the top of his shortlist.
It was only last year that United were embroiled in a transfer battle with Chelsea and Manchester City over the signing of highly-rated Penarol winger Pellistri. He penned a five-year deal with Solskjaer’s side which put paid to Lampard’s hopes of snapping up the teenage sensation.
If Ed Woodward can repeat the same trick with Rice, there’s no denying the fact that it would be a bitter pill for the Blues boss to swallow, as he is known to be a big admirer of the England international.
Despite his young age, the 22-year-old has featured 128 times for the Hammers, and has scored three goals and supplied five assists in all competitions, as per Transfermarkt.
But it is his defensive contributions that cannot be ignored – in fact, in 17 top-flight appearances this season, the Englishman is averaging 1.9 tackles and 2.1 interceptions this season, with Moyes lauding the fact “he could arguably be my best centre half and best midfielder” right now.
Should Pogba depart Old Trafford, his potential departure may create space for Rice in the squad, while there are still questions over Donny van de Beek.
In a similar way to Michael Carrick, Solskjaer could emulate his predecessor Sir Alex Ferguson and deploy Rice as a defensive midfielder who can also play as a centre-back. You could also compare this to Scott McTominay, who was previously deployed in defence by Jose Mourinho during his time at Old Trafford.
West Ham head coach Moyes hailed his young charge after the 1-0 win over Sheffield United last year and said: “He is such an improved player. ‘I really think he is doing a great job as a player and we are building up hope that he will be an outstanding captain.
“The role, his responsibility he takes on the pitch because of his young age, his leadership qualities will build. He has learned from Harry Kane and Mark Noble.”
Whilst West Ham’s demands of £70m for the midfielder could prove to be a major stumbling block, there’s no doubt that he would make a fine addition to Solskjaer’s squad. Get it done, Woodward, before it’s too late.
AND in other news, Man Utd must get rid of Marcos Rojo in January…