Sky Italia report via Sky Sports that Manchester United are plotting a £72m bid for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who enjoyed another impressive season with Lazio in 2018/19, scoring five goals and chalking up three assists from midfield.
The Red Devils have already spent pretty big this summer, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka arriving from Crystal Palace for £50m and £15m-rated Daniel James trading the Liberty Stadium for Old Trafford, although Ole Gunnar Solskjaer isn’t done there – departures in 2019, including Marouane Fellaini and Ander Herrera, have left the Norwegian short of options in midfield.
Spaniard Herrera joined PSG after the expiry of his contract with United despite having been the 13-time Premier League winners’ second-best performer last term, averaging a 6.96 rating according to WhoScored.
The task of replacing the former Athletic Bilbao man’s well-roundedness in the middle of the park is neither enviable or cheap and, if the Serb is the player Solskjaer wants, Milinkovic-Savic has some key improvements to make if he is to be a suitable replacement. Read on to find out the three key stats which expose the 24-year-old’s shortcomings…
In this department, Herrera blew his United competition out of the water last term, completing an impressive 2.5 tackles per game – Matteo Darmian comes close with 2.3, although the Italian managed just five league starts. Even Nemanja Matic, whom Jose Mourinho described as “everything we want in a footballer”, averaged a measly-in-comparison 1.8 tackles per game – he’s the defensive hub of the team!
How did Matic’s countryman, Milinkovic-Savic, fare in this area of the game then? Well, he recorded 1.4 tackles per game and, while this isn’t key to his style, it’s crucial that he makes improvements in this area if he is to even replace Herrera, let alone be an upgrade on the 29-year-old.
If the 6 foot 3 powerhouse’s tackling needs some work, then he should be putting plenty of hours into improving his ability to intercept the ball, too – the 20-cap international cuts out a pass just 0.9 times per game, whereas Herrera did so 1.7 times per game last term.
The PSG new boy is excellent at reading the game, with his ‘ball interception’ and ‘defensive contribution’ both listed as ‘Very Strong’ by WhoScored – he shares the latter with Milinkovic-Savic, but the Spanish-born star’s numbers don’t come close to Herrera’s.
Of course, given that the gigantic midfielder has Lucas Leiva, who completes an astonishing 3.4 tackles and 2 interceptions per game, behind him at Lazio, there is less of a requirement for Milinkovic-Savic to help his team out on the back foot – with Paul Pogba thriving given freedom of the field at Old Trafford, though, ‘Sergej’ will have to get used to getting his hands dirty should he sign for United this summer.
Herrera is far from being just an enforcer, with the 6 footer averaging a healthy passing success rate of 87.8% last term – the fourth-highest of all Red Devils players – and this is an area in which Milinkovic-Savic suffers, as the Biancocelesti number 21 finds a teammate with just 79% of his attempted passes. Had he played for United last season, this figure would place him below even Fellaini, according to WhoScored.
If you think the rumoured £80m for Harry Maguire is too much, check out how much his potential replacement will cost in the video below…
There is little doubt that the former Genk man offers far more on the front foot – he takes more shots, completes more dribbles and is fouled more often (according to WhoScored) but, if he is indeed to replace Herrera, then these weaker areas of his game need fixing.