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Man Utd: Ten Hag eyes swoop for Declan Rice

Manchester United are reportedly showing interest in making a summer move for West Ham United captain Declan Rice, albeit with the Red Devils set to face competition for the Englishman’s signature.

What’s the word?

According to The Guardian, the Old Trafford outfit are set to take a ‘close interest’ in the 24-year-old’s situation at the end of the season, with the midfielder facing an uncertain future at the London Stadium with only 18 months remaining on his current deal.

The report does also suggest that both Chelsea and Arsenal are also firmly in the mix for the 39-cap gem, with the high-flying Gunners currently said to be the ‘favourites’ at present, while the player himself is believed to be ‘open’ to joining Mikel Arteta’s side.

That fact should ensure that Erik ten Hag and co do face something of a battle if they are to prise the highly-coveted asset from east London, with any deal also set to require a rather hefty fee of around £80-£100m, according to the Evening Standard’s Nizaar Kinsella.

Imagine him and Casemiro

Forking out that sizeable figure could well prove worth it for United, however, with Rice potentially set to take the club to “another level“, according to former defender Paul Parker, should he make the move to Manchester.

Arguably “the best central midfielder in the country“, according to Parker, the £60k-per-week maestro only recently outlined his ambition to compete for major honours and play in the Champions League, with it looking unlikely that he will be able to realise those goals any time soon with the relegation-threatened Hammers.

Were he to move to the Theatre of Dreams, however, the towering gem could well have a far greater chance of achieving those dreams, with Ten Hag’s side currently looking well-placed for a top-four finish after a recent revival under the former Ajax boss.

As for United, securing the services of the 6 foot 1 titan could well help to continue the quest to end their lengthy barren run with regard to the league title, with Rice potentially able to form a truly menacing midfield partnership alongside summer arrival, Casemiro.

The experienced Brazilian – who joined from Real Madrid on a £70m deal – has swiftly emerged as something of a cult hero in his new surroundings, having been “absolutely outstanding” in recent months, in the words of club legend Gary Neville.

The “cement in the midfield” – according to Ten Hag – the 30-year-old has been a commanding and combative figure in front of the back four so far this term, notably averaging 3.1 tackles per game in the top-flight, while also showcasing his perhaps unsung creative flair after creating five big chances and laying on three assists.

Having that stable presence in the centre of the park could well allow Rice the time to adapt if he is to join the Red Devils any time soon, with the Casemiro’s presence taking the pressure off the Three Lions star of having to be the main man in midfield from the outset.

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The West Ham sensation, like the former Madrid man, is something of a “force of nature” – as per journalist Rob Blanchette – having averaged 2.4 tackles in his 19 league outings this term to illustrate his ball-winning prowess.

That quality is also laid bare by the fact that the Kingston-born ace ranks in the top 7% in Europe among those in his position for interceptions, while also proving his brilliance on the ball as he ranks in the top 5% for pass completion.

To be able to partner Casemiro with another potential leader in the form of the Irons skipper could well be something of a dream scenario for United, with such a ferocious spine in the side set to be the envy of clubs across Europe.