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Manchester United could face added competition for £52m star after rivals suffer injury blow

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If you want proof of just how damaging an injury crisis can be to a team’s ambitions, look no further than Manchester United and Newcastle United.

This time 12 months ago, the respective sides of Erik ten Hag and Eddie Howe were battling it out for a top-four spot, having already faced off at Wembley in the EFL Cup final. Flash forward to April 2024, and Manchester United are nine points adrift of the Champions League places.  

For Newcastle, the gap between themselves and fourth-placed Aston Villa stands at a staggering 16.

Man United have been without Luke Shaw, Lisandro Martinez, Casemiro, Rasmus Hojlund, Kobbie Mainoo, Mason Mount and more during long spells of the campaign.

Newcastle, meanwhile, have been forced to limp along in the absence of several key players of their own. Nick Pope, Alexander Isak, Callum Wilson, Joelinton and Sven Botman, to name just five. 

Goncalo Inacio of Sporting seen in action during the UEFA

Photo by Grzegorz Wajda/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Injury issues still hampering Man United and Newcastle

Botman, Newcastle have confirmed, might not even play again in 2024. The Dutch international – a key cog in the Premier League’s joint-best defence last term – could miss up to nine months after rupturing his cruciate ligament during the FA Cup quarter-final exit by Manchester City.

And with top-class, left-sided centre-halves hardly ten-a-penny, Botman’s long-term absence substantially raises the prospect of a Man United vs Newcastle battle in pursuit of a defensive southpaw when the summer window opens.

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Goncalo Inacio, one of the many young defenders on Man United’s radar, appeared unlikely to end up at Newcastle.

According to reports in Portugal, The Magpies had few plans to trigger the £52 million release clause in Inacio’s Sporting Lisbon contract due to the presence of Botman at St James’ Park.

Eddie Howe’s Saudi backed away but they may now be tempted to row back on that decision, however, with Botman a shadow of his former self even before shredding his knee at the Etihad. 

Left-sided centre-half battle may be beginning

Give Me Sport’s Dean Jones claims that Newcastle – like Man United – have sent scouts to watch Atalanta’s Giorgio Scalvini too. The Italy international – a right footer by trade but extremely comfortable on his left too – only recently signed a new contract but Atalanta’s success has been built upon selling and replacing star men, bouncing back from the departure of one Rasmus Hojlund last year.

Of course, Man United remains a more alluring destination to most than Newcastle, regardless of how ambitious and deep pocketed their Middle Eastern owners might be. You only have to ask Dan Ashworth about that.

But with potentially elite-level, left-sided centre-halves already relatively few and far between, Man United will not welcome the prospect of a bidding war raising the competition – not to mention the price-tags – of Inacio, Scalvini and co. 

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