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‘He’s complete’… Unbeaten manager thrilled he signed Man Utd player, explains performances which helped him decide

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Manchester United have unsurprisingly been linked with a number of Bayer Leverkusen players this season, with the German side unbeaten in 2023/24.

Top of the league and now into the German Cup final, one of Leverkusen’s players began the summer at Manchester United, before making the switch to join Xabi Alonso’s side.

That’s goalkeeper Matej Kovar, who has been Leverkusen’s ‘cup goalkeeper’, and this week emerged victorious in the Pokal semi-final.

Kovar kept a clean sheet in the 4-0 win over Fortuna Dusseldorf, setting up a final with Kaiserslautern they will be heavily favoured for.

It is a great chance for the former Manchester United trainee to win another trophy, having won the league title as a regular with Sparta Prague last season out on loan.

READ: Confirmed Manchester United transfers in, out, loans, releases, youth for 2023/24

Bayer 04 Leverkusen v BK Häcken: Group H - UEFA Europa League 2023/24

Photo by Oliver Kaelke/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Xabi Alonso praises Matej Kovar

Manchester United sold Matej Kovar to Bayer Leverkusen last July, despite very promising performances from the goalkeeper in pre-season games against Leeds and then Lyon, in which he kept clean sheets in both.

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Leverkusen gladly snapped the goalkeeper up, and manager Xabi Alonso has expressed praise for the Czech Republic prospect.

Alonso told Kicker that Kovar’s performances in pre-season for United also helped to make their mind up to sign him.

He explained: “He’s complete, he’s intelligent, he’s good with his feet, even better in goal. We have to help him develop for the future.

“He showed last season and also in the preparation at Manchester United that he is at a high level. He was ready from the start, trained well and in Cup and also the Europa League showed that he is a good option. He deserves to keep this position.”

Alonso was referring to the upcoming cup final, that Kovar will start. He remains a back-up in the Bundesliga, where he has one appearance.

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Leverkusen had plan Manchester United did not

Matej Kovar was signed as Bayer Leverkusen’s long-term successor for Lukas Hradecky, offering him a future path into their first team.

They were able to convince him into that back-up role with promises of game time in cup competitions, which they have delivered on. Kovar has made 12 appearances in total this season.

Manchester United signed a back-up goalkeeper in the summer, Altay Bayindir, and he was played only once. And this was not through choice, instead because Andre Onana was away at the AFCON.

Leverkusen, to be fair, have more motivation to give chances to Kovar than United would have done.

Hradecky is 34, and Kovar was signed as part of a succession plan. Giving him game time is crucial to enabling him to take over in the future.

At United, there would not have been the same need. Onana has just turned 28 and could be at the club for at least the next five years, and then, he’d still be younger than Hradecky’s age now.

So even with occasional cup appearances for United, there was no path for Kovar to take over as number one.

The bold choice would have been to throw him straight in, and save £43 million on Onana. United were not brave enough to do that.

There is a buy-back clause in place for Kovar, although the goalkeeper has expressed doubt over whether the club will ever exercise it.

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