Manchester United fans can be forgiven for a healthy dose of pessimism when it comes to transfers these days. Numerous fiascos such as last summer’s attempts to sign Jadon Sancho, coupled with a huge distrust of the Glazer family’s commitment to investment, have given rise to an understandable lack of belief.
In the good old days, when a player of the calibre such as Harry Kane said he wanted to leave his current club and wants to stay in the Premier League, United fans would have taken to the streets to celebrate the slam-dunk that they expected would follow to bring him to Old Trafford.
This time around, though, the feeling is different. It already feels as if City, Chelsea or PSG (who could have around £150 million burning a hole in their pocket if they sell Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid) could click their fingers if they wanted to, whereas United would spend the whole summer putting together a feeble offer that would send Spurs’ chairman Daniel Levy into an uncontrollable attack of the giggles. After all, he holds all the aces. Kane might want to leave but he has four years left on his contract, so all Levy has to do is hold firm on his price – reported to be £150 million – in order to do right by his promise to allow Kane that possibility, in theory at least.
But there are a number of factors in this scenario that suggest that maybe, just maybe, United could surprise everyone. The Red Devils have seven things in their favour that could actually tip the balance.
1. Kane will not want to go to PSG
If the Mbappe to Real Madrid sale goes through, PSG will be in the strongest financial position to meet that £150 million asking price. But Kane wants to leave Spurs to win trophies and play at the highest level. PSG can only try to satisfy that ambition in one competition – the Champions League. At 28, the England man will not want to be plying his trade against Angers and Brest week-in, week out. He would surely not agree to join PSG at any price.
2. Levy will not want to sell Kane to Chelsea
Of course, the Spurs chairman would prefer an overseas destination but with PSG off the table, it’s the Prem or nothing. So the next best thing for Spurs would be not to have to see their hero walking down the Kings Road at London rivals Chelsea. A move to Manchester would surely save a little face.
3. City would have to have a major policy shift to sign Kane
On paper, City is the obvious move for Kane. He represents a direct replacement for the departing Sergio Aguero and they have the funds to do it. However, according to The Independent, City ‘have generally had a policy of not paying more than £60m for a player, but they are expected to break that this summer, by signing Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish and a centre-forward.
‘Their preference for the striker position is a player below the age of 24, who would fully justify such expenditure… They do retain an interest in Kane, though, and are watching the situation.’
This backs up Pep Guardiola’s recent comments in respect of Erling Haaland, in which he clearly stated that City would not pay over a million pounds for a player. Exceptions can be made of course, but some might argue that a leopard cannot change its spots.
4. Kane’s preferred destination is United
This can’t be understated. With England squad friends at Old Trafford and the club’s profile fitting his project, the 28-year-old is naturally drawn to the Red Devils. Which, in theory, should bring it all down to money …
5. The Glazers need something to win over the fans
After weeks of protests and boycotts aimed at the much maligned Glazer family, United’s controlling shareholders, a massive marquee signing such as Kane would surely help to diffuse the situation. Or at least, the Glazers would hope that it would. Of course, they may be arrogant enough to just let it ride its course and not feel the need for appeasement. Continued pressure and protests, such as at tonight’s final home league game of the season against Fulham, could spur them into action (if you pardon the pun).
6. John Murtough
One big difference this summer in United’s negotiations is a change in personnel. In recent years, transfers have been handled – or mostly mishandled – by executive vice chairman Ed Woodward and chief negotiatior Matt Judge. Their performance has been patchy at best and totally incompetent at its worst. The recent appointment of John Murtough as director of football and the fact that Woodward has one foot out of the door following his resignation means at least that there is fresh blood in the negotiating team, and someone that will want to make his mark.
7. Quality part-exchange offerings
With Edinson Cavani staying another season and Mason Greenwood’s continued improvement, Kane’s arrival would push Anthony Martial down the pecking order to the point that a transfer out might be considered. In fact, The Mail believes that Spurs could be interested in taking Martial as a part-exchange option. The Frenchman is valued at around £45 million, which with a little negotiation on top could bring Kane’s price down below the £100 million mark.
Jesse Lingard is another part-exchange option. Jose Mourinho tried to take the 28-year-old to Spurs last summer and whoever takes over might agree that Lingard would be a good addition. He, too, could sweeten the pot for Spurs and help clinch a deal. According to The Athletic, ‘Daniel Levy is determined not to let the England captain go and would likely demand more money than United would be prepared to offer but Lingard could be a useful bargaining chip to throw into the deal to reduce any fee.’
Seven good reasons for United fans to be cautiously optimistic, or at least, not as pessimistic as we might have been a year ago. Whether that optimism will be justified remains to be seen.