The imminent departure of Harry Maguire from Manchester United will give Erik ten Hag around £30m to play with as the transfer window nears its end. But what would be the best use of that windfall?
The obvious thing to do would be to replace one defender with another, and The Red Devils have reportedly drawn up a shortlist of players they believe could do just that. Jean-Clair Todibo, Edmond Tapsoba, and Benjamin Pavard have all been linked, while there is also an appreciation for Marc Guehi of Crystal Palace.
The last of those would likely cost too much for United to get over the line, but the first three are certainly all good enough to take over Maguire’s minutes and provide more suitable options to Ten Hag.
But there is another option, and he has been waiting for a Man United approach for some time now. Sofyan Amrabat may not be a central defender, but a large part of his attraction is his ability to help the team in defensive transitions alongside Casemiro in tough matches or back him up when the Brazilian is fatigued or, more likely, suspended.
That role will arguably have far more of an impact on the outcome of United’s upcoming season than a new fourth-choice centre back would have. After all, Maguire played only 759 minutes of Premier League football last term and most of them came early on in the campaign, before Luke Shaw’s proficiency in the middle had been recognised.
While there is plenty of sense in looking for a long term replacement for Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof’s fine form towards to end of last season should boost faith in his ability to cover injuries at right-centre back. A quality new defender will be needed, but there is no need to rush into signing one this summer just because one is on the way out. For now, Jonny Evans could make up the numbers on a free.
Reports have indicated that United are trying to sell Fred and Donny van de Beek to fund midfield recruitment, but that is unlikely to generate the necessary cash for a player like Amrabat. The former has had Galatasaray walk away from negotiations over price, while the latter is in talks with Real Sociedad over a loan move. Raising £25m-odd there looks highly unlikely.
With West Ham close to completing a deal for James Ward-Prowse after balking at United’s price tag for Scott McTominay, a windfall there also looks improbable.
Decisions must therefore be made. The £30m that The Hammers will pay for Harry Maguire could well be the last serious bit of funding Ten Hag’s budget gets this summer, and it must be used wisely.
While there is plenty of talent in the centre back market this summer, the value that Amrabat could potentially bring to the team has been discussed elsewhere and it is significant. United were too open in away games against teams in the top half due to a cavalier setup. The Moroccan would allow for a more conservative rest defence were he to line up alongside Casemiro.
The Red Devils also struggled in the periods during which their Brazilian stalwart was suspended. Scott McTominay was tasked with taking over the position in his absences but it is simply not a role the academy graduate is suited to. No such issue for Amrabat.
West Ham have given Manchester United a fantastic opportunity to finish their transfer business in style this summer, but the Maguire money would be far better spent in midfield.