It feels like Manchester United need to address all areas at the start of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s sporting project once the Premier League ratifies his £1.3billion deal for 25 per cent of the club – on and off the pitch. And while Erik ten Hag’s priorities reportedly lie in his defence and strikeforce, he will be alert to opportunities to refine his midfield.
Ten Hag has focused much of his heavy investment into the United midfield since becoming the club’s manager in 2022.
He spent most of his first summer transfer window chasing an £85m swoop for Frenkie de Jong, who never wanted to leave Barcelona.
United splashed £70m on Casemiro instead, adding to the capture of free agent Christian Eriksen at the start of the summer.
Last January, Ten Hag recruited Marcel Sabitzer on a short loan to cover an untimely injury to Eriksen. Months later, he splurged another £60m to bring Mason Mount from Chelsea ahead of this season.
If the Dutchman had his own way, he may have added another midfielder to his ranks during his two-year reign at Old Trafford.
By now, his admiration for Juventus’ Adrien Rabiot is no secret. It’s impossible to be anything but that, considering he’s tried and failed to lure him to M16 twice already.
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Rabiot almost joined United in the summer of 2022 when it became clear that De Jong was settled in sunny Catalonia.
However, the club were unable to agree on personal terms with the France international or his mother and agent, Veronique.
The 28-year-old returned to the frame last summer when United made contact with his representatives over a potential free transfer.
But, again, Ten Hag was ousted. Rabiot was convinced to pen a one-year extension at Juventus, largely down to his strong relationship with manager Massimiliano Allegri.
He was one of the Old Lady’s top performers last season and has played a crucial role this term – starting all 16 Serie A games that he’s been available for.
Rabiot has previously expressed his desire to return to England, though, after spending a section of his youth career in Manchester City’s academy.
“I have always said that I’d like to play in England in my career. I still have that desire. I’d like to evolve in the Premier League,” Rabiot said in 2022.
“I haven’t got a Premier League team in mind right now. I haven’t chosen a team or anything. It’s a general thing.
“It’s the league, it’s the level of play that’s going on, that’s what attracts me most. It corresponds to my qualities.”
Sir Jim and INEOS could start their era off with what would be an incredibly shrewd free transfer, which would clearly go down well with Ten Hag.