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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Man Utd table offer for “special” £101m star who is better than Ugarte

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If there is one area that Manchester United need to strengthen during the 2024 summer transfer window, it is in midfield. The Red Devils have potential outgoings and a loan expiration in the middle of the park, which could leave them light for numbers and in need of reinforcements. Out of the midfielders in the squad, there are only a few players who are seemingly guaranteed to be staying at Old Trafford next season. The captain, Bruno Fernandes, does not seem likely to leave, and neither does Mason Mount, who suffered an injury-riddled first season at Old Trafford. Kobbie Mainoo should stay, with the 19-year-old becoming a crucial player under Erik ten Hag last season. Sofyan Amrabat’s loan from Fiorentina has now expired, and the Red Devils decided not to trigger the clause in the Moroccan’s contract which means they purchased him permanently. However, there is still a chance they could negotiate with the Italian side to keep him at Old Trafford. The likes of Casemiro, Christian Eriksen, and Scott McTominay could also depart the club. The Daily Mail reported in April that the Brazilian, along with the former Spurs midfielder, are two of ten players who could leave the club this summer. There are recent reports from Graeme Bailey that academy graduate McTominay is of interest to Premier League rivals Fulham. With that in mind, United may need to strengthen in midfield and have recently been linked with one of Fernandes’ international teammates. Man Utd target Portuguese midfielder The player in question here is Benfica and Portugal midfielder Joao Neves. The 19-year-old is wanted by a whole host of clubs this summer, with United thought to be one side interested in adding him to their squad. According to a report from Portuguese news outlet Correio da Manha, via The Faithful, the Red Devils are one of the sides who have looked to ‘formalise the proposal’ for a deal to sign Neves this summer, although they were not successful in that bid. As per the report, the Red Devils would have to pay the young star’s release clause, which is currently £101m, thus making him the most expensive player in their history. French giants Paris Saint Germain have also had a £59m bid for the midfielder rejected by Benfica this summer, which means that both teams have had offers turned down already. Whilst United and PSG are the only two sides to have launched, or are close to launching, a bid for the youngster, they are not the only interested parties. Two of United’s Premier League rivals, London duo Arsenal and Chelsea, ‘have also shown interest’ in bringing the youngster to their respective clubs this summer. Why Neves would be a good signing Despite being just 19 years of age, Neves had a crucial role to play for Benfica last season, which resulted in his selection for Portugal’s Euro 2024 squad. The youngster played a whooping 55 games last season for Benfica, mainly in defensive midfield, scoring three times and assisting twice, all in the league. As a defensive midfielder, Neves is a wonderfully progressive passer, adept at breaking up play with his impressive ball-winning skills. Should United sign him, he would bring high levels of energy to the centre of the park, as well as impressive technical quality. Football analyst Ben Mattinson described the 19-year-old as “special”, and for good reason. The Portugal international could well be a better option for United to sign than Manuel Ugarte. The Red Devils have been heavily linked with the PSG number four, who is currently representing Uruguay at the Copa America. According to a report from Diego Munoz on the 28th of June, Ugarte is ‘close to joining’ the Old Trafford club, with The Express confirming he would cost much of the £51m PSG paid for him last summer. Ugarte featured just 37 times in all competitions for Les Parisiens last season, with 25 of those games coming in Ligue 1. The Uruguayan is an impressive ball-winner, although he is not as progressive as Neves. This is also shown when breaking down their passing stats on FBRef. Per 90 minutes, the Portuguese midfielder averages 6.65 progressive passes, compared to just 4.05 for Ugarte. Not only that, Neves trumps the PSG man when it comes to final third passes. He averages 6.89 passes into the final third per 90, with Ugarte averaging less, at just 4.60 each game. The Benfica youngster also beats Ugarte when looking at their key passing stats, averaging 0.97 per game, compared to the Uruguayan’s 0.65 key passes. Neves vs. Ugarte passing stats Stat (per 90) Neves Ugarte Passes completed 71.5 56.5 Progressive passes 6.65 4.05 Passes into the final third 6.89 4.60 Passes into the penalty box 0.89 0.28 Key passes 0.97 0.65 Stats from Fbref The 19-year-old Benfica midfielder also puts up better numbers than Ugarte when it comes to ball carrying, although it is far closer. Firstly, Neves averages more progressive carries, with 1.67 compared to just 0.74 for the PSG midfielder. He also attempts 2.84 take-ons per 90 minutes, completing 1.60, which is also better than Ugarte. The 23-year-old attempts 1.86 take-ons, and completes just 0.98. Where Ugarte does excel over Neves is off the ball. As aforementioned, he is a superb ball-winner, and this shows with his 6.42 combined tackles and interceptions trumping Neves’ 3.89 each game. Ugarte also slightly edges the pair’s ball recovery stats, too, averaging 8.42 compared to Neves’ 8.25. Perhaps one of the biggest question marks over Neves at the base of United’s midfield is his height, standing at just 5″7. This means he could struggle in the air, especially given the physicality of the Premier League. However, he has far better aerial duel stats than Ugarte. The 19-year-old averaged 1.60 aerial duels won per game, with a win rate of 58.6% at league level. In contrast, Ugarte wins just 0.65 and has a win rate of 53.8%. Should the Red Devils decide to pull the trigger and sign Neves, they would be adding a third member to their Portuguese contingency at Old Trafford, which currently consists of Fernandes and Diogo Dalot. Of course, having familiar faces to help him settle in will also be a massive benefit should they bring Neves to the club. Overall, despite the large fee for Neves, this could be too good of an opportunity for United to turn down. He would add a plethora of technical qualities next to the likes of Mainoo and Fernandes, as well as being more than competent out of possession. He certainly seems like the ideal alternative to Ugarte and could be in the midfield for United for the next decade or more to come.

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