As the news breaks that Paul Pogba is likely to require further ankle surgery and Scott McTominay also faces ‘a few months’ on the sidelines, Manchester United manager Olé Gunnar Solskjaer confessed in the Arsenal post-match press conference that ‘It is playing on our decision-making when you have two players out…But still it has got to be right, that’s the big point. If the right player is available, we’ll do something [in January] definitely. We are looking at one or two.’
With the rumour mill unusually quiet on the central midfield front, we look at players who might be on that hit list and assess the chances of their signing for the Red Devils.
1. Gedson Fernandes, 20, Benfica – slight possibility
There is a lot of speculation in the English media that the 20-year-old Portuguese player could join United in January after falling out of favour with Benfica head coach Bruno Lage. However, the Portuguese press have not been running with the story to date, suggesting that it is little more than speculation at this point.
2. Eduardo Camavinga, 17, Rennes – unlikely
There have been rumblings for some time about United’s interest in the young Frenchman, dubbed the new Pogba. He would certainly be one of the more attainable in January but at 17 it would be a huge gamble to expect him to cover for McTominay and Pogba, so a summer signing is more likely.
3. Jack Grealish, 24, Aston Villa – most likely
Grealish must be pretty high on Solskjaer’s wish list for January. The Villa man has shone in the Premier League this season and has made no secret of his admiration of the club. While Villa will most likely play hardball and not want to lose their captain halfway through their relegation battle, money could eventually talk.
4. James Maddison, 23, Leicester City – difficult
Olé Solskjaer’s admiration for Maddison is a badly kept secret but it has been widely reported that Leicester are likely to refuse to sell the Englishman until the summer. Whether, as with Grealish, a big enough offer would make the Foxes change their mind remains unknown.
5. Jude Bellingham, 16, Birmingham City – very possible
Recent reports from The Telegraph claim that Mike Phelan has been personally scouting the talented youngster who is turning heads in the Championship. However, as with Camavinga, Solskjaer might consider Bellingham too young to be thrown in to the lion’s den mid-season, although the Reds are more likely to make their move for Bellingham than Canavinga as they may need to fend off the advances of a number of chasing German clubs.
6. Kalvin Phillips, 24, Leeds United – possible
It is believed that £40 million would be enough to secure the services of the Leeds man and the Red Devils have been reported to be interested. However, Phillips is more of a holding midfielder and it may be that Solskjaer would prefer a more creative/attacking option to be added to the ranks.
7. Emre Can, 25, Juventus – meh
Can has not settled well in Turin since his move from Liverpool in 2018 and there are strong rumours in Italy that he will move on in January. Can would be an affordable and versatile option with Premier League experience, but the question is whether the club believe that he has the pedigree to significantly improve the midfield.
8. Arturo Vidal, 32, Barcelona – highly unlikely
Despite reports linking the Chilean with a move to Old Trafford, it seems a long shot to say the least despite the player’s immense talent. Barcelona are now reported to have decided to keep Vidal until the summer so any slim chance of this happening now looks to have vanished altogether.
9. Christian Eriksen, 27, Spurs – unlikely
Eriksen will certainly be on the move from Spurs either in January or in the summer, but reports suggest he has snubbed a move to Old Trafford for a second time.
10. Ruben Neves, 22, Wolves – long shot
There have only been a few reports linking United with the talented Portuguese and the player certainly would tick all the boxes in terms of what the club are looking for in a midfielder. At this stage, this is more of a fans’ hope than anything else.
11. Bruno Fernandes, 25, Sporting Lisbon – very unlikely
After months of Manchester United fans wondering whether United will sign Fernandes, whose form this season is even more impressive than last, Fernandes himself has thrown cold water over the idea. In an interview with Record, the Portuguese claimed that Spurs ‘was the team that wanted me the most and was the only one I agreed to talk with, because there were other clubs that didn’t interest me or whose project was not up to my expectations.’ A move to Old Trafford, therefore seems highly unlikely at this stage.