Over the weekend, reports linking Manchester United to a bid for PSV Eindhoven’s Ibrahim Sangaré were circulating.
This made sense; for some years United have been weak in that area, especially as Nemanja Matic lost a yard of pace. Sangaré has a good price point (reported to be around €35 million), his head coach, United legend Ruud van Nistelrooy, has admitted he may lose him this summer and given that he plays in the Eredivisie, he must be well-known to new United boss, Erik ten Hag.
Yet almost as soon as the news broke, further reports came out to debunk the story as “nonsense”.
Of course, it is always possible that the “nonsense” report was, in fact, nonsense, and that United are leading the race to sign the Ivorian. But if they genuinely are not, you have to wonder who, if anyone, they are targeting for that crucial role this summer.
Over the course of the last 12 months, we have seen the likes of Denis Zakaria, Boubacar Kamara, Franck Kessie, Ryan Gravenberch and Aurelien Tchouameni get snapped up.
United haven’t moved for the (admittedly overpriced) Ruben Neves and the desperately overpriced Declan Rice. They did try for Jude Bellingham, but that was like Haaland groundhog day and they have almost certainly now missed their chance.
They may have decided to wait another year before testing West Ham’s resolve to keep hold of Rice with just a year left on his contract, but there is no guarantee that they would be successful then. Besides, the strengthening in this position is long overdue.
If not Sangaré, who, in fact, is left? Could United make an audacious bid for Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic? PSG’s Marco Verratti?
Perhaps James Garner or even Charlie Savage could be fast tracked through. Perhaps Ten Hag will dispense with the role altogether and put two ball-playing midfielders ahead of the defence. Perhaps new signing Lisandro Martinez will play in that role.
It does seem strange that there seems to be no activity at all in the one position that just about everyone would have agreed was weakest.
United have bought Tyrell Malacia in a position where they have Shaw, Telles, Williams, Alvaro Fernandes and the two-sided Dalot.
They have bought Lisandro Martinez in a position where they have Maguire, Varane, Lindelof, Bailly, Jones and Tuanzebe.
It’s not a question of whether the new signings are an upgrade, it is a question of sheer numbers and priority.
It will be interesting to see what develops over the rest of the transfer window, but it is hard to understand why Sangaré would not at least be of interest to the club.