Roberto De Zerbi could call on connections past and present to revitalise Manchester United’s starting XI if he is chosen to succeed Erik ten Hag. The Brighton boss is reportedly on the Red Devils’ list of candidates should they opt to part company with the Dutchman, and Express Sport takes you through how their line-up could be affected…
Andre Onana won’t have convinced many with his first few months as a Manchester United player. The £47million summer signing from Inter Milan has committed a string of errors since taking his place between the sticks, some of which have cost his side in big games.
But the Cameroon international is capable of playing at a high level, as he proved by helping Inter to last season’s Champions League final. And as De Zerbi likes a goalkeeper comfortable playing out from the back, Onana could be in luck if the Italian is appointed.
Defence: Wan-Bissaka, Dunk, Martinez, Shaw
Raphael Varane is due to be out of contract at the end of the season, which will open up a vacancy in the heart of United’s defence. Lewis Dunk wouldn’t be a glamorous signing for the Red Devils but the Brighton captain has been a consistently-high performer on the south coast, which has earned him frequent call-ups to the England squad.
An experienced head such as his alongside the younger, feistier Lisandro Martinez could make for a productive partnership at Old Trafford, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw lining up either side to complete the tweaked back-four.
Midfield: Caicedo, Bruno, Mainoo
Not many Man Utd midfielders are currently performing at a level fans are happy with. Mason Mount, Casemiro and Sofyan Amrabat have each had poor seasons, allowing academy product Kobbie Mainoo to emerge from the woodwork and stake his claim for a starting role.
Red Devils captain Bruno Fernandes would also be a shoo-in to keep his place, and he could be joined in the middle of the park by Moises Caicedo.
Stamford Bridge can’t have been a particularly happy environment for the Ecuadorian since completing his £115m summer switch from Brighton to Chelsea, and De Zerbi could offer his former Seagulls star an exit route if Sir Jim Ratcliffe is willing to flex his financial muscles.
Attack: Mitoma, Ferguson, Rashford
Anthony Martial, Rasmus Hojlund and Antony are falling flat, Jadon Sancho was exiled before being sent out on loan, and Mason Greenwood is expected to leave at the end of the season. That doesn’t leave many options for De Zerbi, with an attacking overhaul desperately needed at Old Trafford.
Thankfully, Brighton have a wealth of exciting stars to choose from should their manager jump ship. Teenage sensation Evan Ferguson would be a major coup if he were to follow De Zerbi to United, and Kaoru Mitoma would bring the kind of sharpness and directness to wide areas that Antony has failed to provide since his mega-money switch from Ajax.