New Manchester United boss Erik Ten Hag has identified the midfield as an area in need of improvement. On top of that, multiple midfielders have already left the club, which means one or more signings are inevitable. While Barcelona’s Frenkie De Jong seems to be United’s primary target, Matheus Nunes of Sporting Lisbon is also on the club’s radar according to reports emerging from Portugal.
According to Portuguese newspaper Correio de Manha (via Sport Witness), the Red Devils have joined the race for the highly-rated 23-year-old and will be competing with crosstown rivals Manchester City for his signature.
Since joining Sporting, Nunes has come on by leaps and bounds. He notched up 50 appearances for the Primeira Liga club last season, getting on the score sheet four times while providing a further five assists. That is not all, he was also adjudged to be the best midfielder in the league on two separate occasions.
Matheus Nunes has completed more take-ons than any other centre-midfielder in the Primeira Liga this season:
◉ 73 attempted
◉ 54 completed
◉ 74% success rate
He might be Sporting's next big sale. 🤑
— Squawka (@Squawka) February 15, 2022
The former Estoril player has been primarily used as a left central midfielder in a 3-4-2-1 formation at the Estadio Jose Alvalade by Sporting coach Rúben Amorim but he is equally comfortable playing a deeper role.
His ability to take the ball from the defence and use his speed to make inroads into opposition territory has been lauded by many. He possesses good dribbling and passing skills and can also play a box-to-box role if needed.
His performances came in for praise from none other than Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola after the Citizens’ Champions League Round of 16 tie against the Portuguese giants.
“Matheus Nunes is one of the best players in the world today. Nunes is one of the best at the moment,” Pep was quoted as saying.
His form has also seen him earn seven caps for the national team. Not only both Manchester clubs, but a host of English teams are monitoring the versatile playmaker including the likes of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Newcastle United and Everton.
The 20-time English champions are in desperate need of midfield reinforcements after Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata all left the club on a free. De Jong’s move from Spain has been a rather protracted affair, with the Catalan giants asking for €80 million due to their severe financial crisis.
Nunes would be a much cheaper alternative as he has a reported release clause of around £50m. The deal could be done for much less with Sporting prepared to take a player on loan and reduce the fee by a further £10m.
The Red Devils maintain a good relationship with the 19-time Primeira Liga champions, having bought Cristiano Ronaldo and Bruno Fernandes from them in the past. Portugal has been a hot market for the English club in recent times with Fernandes, Alex Telles, Victor Lindelof and Diogo Dalot arriving from the country.
However, the media have a habit of linking every talent to emerge from there with the side from Old Trafford. It remains to be seen how this unfolds in the days to come with Erik Ten Hag keeping a close eye on proceedings.