Manchester United enjoyed a wonderful summer transfer window, adding significant strength to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first-team squad, but one target who escaped their grasp may leave them with some regrets.
New football director John Murtough brought the likes of Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo to Old Trafford in his first few months in the role, although his failure to secure the signature of Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni could be his first mistake.
However, nothing came of the Red Devils’ interest, and they instead decided to pursue a move for Ronaldo after the five-time Ballon d’Or winner suddenly became available.
Much was made of Solskjaer’s apparent desire to move away from his trusted double-pivot consisting of Scott McTominay and Fred in favour of a single holding midfielder over the summer, allowing him to play a more attacking lineup.
Nevertheless, despite several high-profile names being linked with a move to the 20-time English champions, a new engine room operator failed to arrive in the red half of Manchester.
It’s left their Norwegian tactician tinkering with his central midfield options once again in the opening weeks of the new campaign, with pairings of McTominay and Fred, Nemanja Matic and Fred, and Paul Pogba and Fred all featuring with varying degrees of success.
McTominay’s injury forced Solskjaer into the experiments, but his lack of trust in a single pivot is also a large reason why so many varieties in the centre of the park have already been fielded.
Although seven points from a possible nine in the Premier League points to a solid start for United, their largely underwhelming displays against Southampton and Wolves have provided cause for concern.
The midfield was a particular problem and further accentuated their need for an external solution to their issues in that area of the pitch.
And by signing Tchouameni, Murtough could have fixed them. As per WhoScored, Tchouameni averaged a whopping 3.5 tackles per league game in 2020/21, by far the highest tally amongst his team.
The France international also made 1.7 interceptions, the joint-highest total when compared to his teammates, and he not only dominated proceedings on the ground but in the air as well, winning 67% of his aerial duels.
Tchouameni’s domineering displays have caught the eye of several impressed onlookers, including current Monaco teammate Cesc Fabregas, who praised the youngster.
“He has the potential to be a complete midfield player,” the former Arsenal, Barcelona and Chelsea maestro wrote on Twitter. And now his compatriot and United star Pogba has lauded his talents.
“He’s not a boy, he’s a man. It’s a pleasure to play next to him, he provides a lot, plenty of energy, technical quality and extraordinary physicality. I hope to play plenty of games together and always be on his side,” the World Cup winner said.
Therefore, Solskjaer will be gutted that Murtough failed to secure Tchouameni’s services, leaving him spending another year trying to solve United’s midfield with players who don’t quite fit the mould.