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Manchester United are still in the running for Jude Bellingham

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has his sights set on turning the tide of the club that he joined earlier this year, with Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham perhaps the marquee signing in mind to lay down a firm marker of intent.

Sky Sports Germany reporter Florian Plettenberg tweeted last month that the Red Devils are very much in the race for the 19-year-old, despite interest from some of the Premier League‘s other big hitters. 

The journalist said: “He’s [Bellingham] the transfer target No. 1 for #MUFC confirmed! They expect him to cost around €150m (£129m), they have scouted him a lot. Ten Hag wants him in 2023! But: Chances are low due to competition from #MCFC and #LFC and due to Financial Fairplay!”

Various sources, including The Athletic, are now reporting that United maintain an intense desire to lure Bellingham to Old Trafford, with ten Hag having been wowed by his performances at the recent World Cup.

The centrepiece of a new era?

Should United secure Bellingham, they would shatter the dreams of their fellow suitors in what might be the most lucrative transfer at the club since the arrival of Paul Pogba from Juventus for a then world-record £89m in 2016.

The 19-year-old Englishman might not taste the instant success at Old Trafford that the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid seem better placed to offer, but the idea of assuming a defining role as the centrepiece of a team looking to rise once more is tantalising, to say the least.

Also, as the third-richest football club in the world, United have the wealth and backing to get a move for Bellingham over the line and clinch a deal which would send a real statement through the Premier League and Europe, reaffirming their stature and their intent to regain their pedestal among football’s elite.

Bellingham himself would bring a skill set which would stand him head-and-shoulders above his peers, combining offensive and defensive prowess in a box-to-box role which would enable him to make his all over the pitch, issuing stability and providing the necessary spark to up the ante in the biggest moments. 

For Dortmund this season, the 19-year-old has scored nine goals and provided three assists from 22 appearances, captaining his side on two occasions – evidence of the maturity that the Old Trafford faithful could yet witness in red. 

As per FBRef, the “prodigy” – as hailed by journalist Raphael Honigstein – ranks within the top 20% for progressive passes, 6% for dribbles completed and 5% for touches in the attacking penalty area when compared to midfielders throughout Europe’s big five leagues in 2022. 

Meanwhile, his defensive mettle is illustrated by his averages of 3.2 tackles, 1.4 interceptions and 1.1 clearances per match in the Bundesliga, as per Sofascore.

Still just a teenager, this all-encompassing level to Bellingham’s play is something which only falls upon a handful of players every generation, and at United he could certainly nurture his precocious, innate football ability, and perhaps inspire the Red Devils to glory once again.

A signing like this, if it comes off, could well and truly kick-start the Erik ten Hag era at Old Trafford.