Manchester United have suffered a potentially significant blow in their pursuit of West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice.
According to the Manchester Evening News, the Red Devils have made the 22-year-old their primary engine room transfer target for next summer as manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to build a side capable of competing for the title.
However, United could have a battle on their hands to secure Rice’s services after local rivals Manchester City reportedly joined the race for his signature, according to The Sun.
The current Premier League champions are believed to be lining up a move for Rice, who is valued at £100 million by the Hammers, as a replacement for the ageing Fernandinho.
Rice has become an integral part of West Ham’s side since making his first-team debut back in 2017, scoring five goals and providing six assists in 149 appearances for the capital club.
The England international’s magnificent performances in the centre of the pitch have caught the eye of several impressed onlookers, including Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer.
“He’s still only 22, and this is what he does really well. I think he reads the game, he’s obviously got an excellent partnership with (Tomas) Soucek in the midfield,” said the former Newcastle United legend (as relayed by This is Futbol).
“He keeps it simple; he stops teams attacking, can play, can pass, breaks it up and then sets his team on the front foot. I think he’s an excellent player.”
Therefore, news that Pep Guardiola’s charges are also interested in signing Rice will surely leave Solskjaer feeling gutted.
The Norwegian tactician is known to be keen on bringing in a new defensive midfielder over the coming months, with 33-year-old Nemanja Matic no longer able to keep pace at the elite level, while Fred and Scott McTominay are better suited to a slightly more advanced role.
Rice’s arrival at Old Trafford would be in keeping with Solskjaer’s transfer policy since taking up residency in the United dugout, but it appears as though football director John Murtough will have to pull off a masterclass to snap him up from under City’s noses.