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Manchester United writer Richard Fay and Sport Content Editor Dominic Booth sat down to conduct our latest MEN Facebook Live on Tuesday, running the rule over the very latest big stories emerging from Old Trafford, as well as answering a few supporters’ questions.
With less than a month of the transfer window now remaining, United’s plans for the remainder of the summer were discussed, as was the impending arrival of France international Raphael Varane from Real Madrid.
The Frenchman is poised to be unveiled as a United player in the not too distant future, with only the final formalities of the deal and his medical standing between him and officially becoming the club’s third summer signing.
The conversation started with the latest on the process to get a deal for Varane over the line and how soon it could be officially confirmed that he is a United player.
Dominic Booth: (DB): “Let’s start with Raphael Varane. We obviously know that deal is going to happen. There may be a little bit of impatience from some fans that he hasn’t officially been unveiled yet, but it is a formality as we understand it.”
Richard Fay (RF): “Yes, of course, and there is still confidence from the club that, in an ideal world, it might be signed off by the end of the week. But, of course, that is down to visa issues, quarantine issues, etc. He has got to have his medical still.
“And he needs to do the promotional shots like we saw with Jadon Sancho. Sancho did his about two weeks before he was actually unveiled, so it has to be the same with Varane. The club is still confident that he will be in line to make his debut against Leeds on the opening day of the season, but it is just a matter of time before the Varane deal is formally announced in that regard.
“I wouldn’t panic; everything is still on course for it to happen. “Bruno [Fernandes] and [Harry] Maguire’s deals were both drawn out longer into the window than they needed to be, so although there is a little bit of frustration about how long Sancho and Varane have taken to be announced formally, I still think it is a really good bit of business.”
Jadon Sancho joined Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund in a £73million deal last month. (Image: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images) The conversation then changed to the topic of what the latest is in regards to United’s search for a new central defensive-midfielder, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer keen to bolster that area of the team before the end of the transfer window.
DB: “I think that is the missing piece in the puzzle for many fans. I know that United are interested in Kieran Trippier and they may go in for him to bolster the right-back ranks later in the window, depending on Atletico Madrid’s stance on that. But a central defensive-midfielder, what can we expect on that? Is this a realistic one for United?
“It does feel, maybe, like they are reaching for the stars a little bit if they are to get a defensive-midfielder, but it may feel like something is missing if they don’t.”
RF: “I think that is a fair assessment. I think that United are playing at themselves. If they only signed Sancho and Varane that is still a really good window, but if you sign a CDM and maybe a full-back it goes to an amazing window. I think, at the moment, it probably is a seven or eight out of 10. If you get another signing, a high calibre one as well, I think it is really looking at a nine out of 10 sort of window, in terms of what United are actually delivering.
“As things stand, in an ideal world, a CDM is above a full-back at the moment – but that can change so quickly. United know that a move for Trippier will only take place right at the end of the window anyway, because Atletico aren’t really going to budge on selling him.
“So Trippier is going to be a late mover. But in terms of a CDM, United are looking at it, but the issue is that they do need to offload now. United have never spent more than £150million on permanent additions across a single transfer window.
“The other issue with a CDM is the uncertainty over Paul Pogba’s future. Uncertainty over what precise role [Donny] van de Beek will have. Fred and [Scott] McTominay were good last season, but who sort of prevails out of those two? Which position do they want to go in?
“It will be interesting to see what he does in regards to Fred and McTominay. A CDM is something that United are looking at, but I expect sales to have to take place for anything major to happen in that position.”
After running the rule over the current state of play in regards to United’s transfer plans and search for a new midfielder, the conversation then shifted to an in-depth look at the current situation concerning Pogba’s future at Old Trafford.
DB: “Paul Pogba seems to have been a big issue for United in every transfer window over the last few years, whether he is staying or going or signing a new contract or not. In fairness, he has probably taken a back seat in terms of the headlines this summer with Sancho and Varane causing so much excitement. I think our understanding on Pogba at the moment is that a number of things could still happen; he could stay at the club for another year. It is unlikely that he will sign a contract extension, but he has obviously got that one year left and United could easily just run it down, I think, and almost cut their losses on Pogba and see if they could get one more really good year out him alongside his France team-mate Varane and alongside Sancho.
“Do you see that as the most likely outcome?”
RF: “I think that is probably the best situation. I think that would be like a nice amicable divorce in a way. If you let him go you are taking a step back; you are signing two world-class players and you are letting one go. I think the progress made in the window would be undone if Pogba were to leave. PSG are the only team that can really buy him this summer. He has said before that he dreams of playing for Real Madrid, but both they and Barcelona cannot afford him. Juventus can’t afford him. PSG are the only team that can sort of feasibly get something done.
Uncertainty concerns Paul Pogba’s future at Manchester United. (Image: Alex Caparros – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images) “The word from the club is that he is very professional in the way he is handling things. The club have no real qualms with how he does it.
“Of course it would look embarrassing if he left for free next summer. I think United’s best chance of achieving their goals this season would be if he was to stay.
“I think, from Pogba’s point of view, give it a few months, see how things are going on and then make your mind up.”
Whilst uncertainty concerning Pogba’s future remains a hot topic, United also know that need to start cutting their cloth with other players. Our writers discussed what the latest state of play is in regards to that current concern.
DB: “Sales are going be needed. It hasn’t really happened yet, in terms of outgoings. The latest question coming in says: ‘When will they sell people?’ But who are the players that United will look to sell, and then we will talk about when those deals could actually be done, because it is a bit more of a complicated situation with outgoings this summer.”
RF: “It is very tricky. I know you (Dominic) did the piece on Andreas Pereira earlier in the summer, saying that he wants that clean divorce from United this month. Ideally he wants a fresh start. He is 25, 26 now, he is not a youngster. He said in that interview with a Brazilian journalist ‘I am not a boy anymore, I am a man.’ He needs to push on for a move.
“But the fee being quoted was €25million, which I just cannot see being achieved from him. Similarly with Jesse Lingard, I know United are holding out for a decent fee for him as well. I think there is going to have to become a point where if United really do mean that they want to get rid of players then they are going to have to take a cut on some of them. United always want to recoup what they have paid for a player, that is just the bare minimum.”
Although United are in desperate need of reducing the size of the first-team squad, making profit from player sales has been a problem for the club in the past.
DB: “United seem to make losses on transfers and it is quite difficult for a club like United to sell players on for a profit. They are not Borrusia Dortmund, an Aston Villa, an Everton. With all due respect, they are stepping stone clubs, United are the end-game for so many players and usually you get players like Phil Jones and Andreas Pereira who had a lot of promise a few years ago at United and haven’t reached that since and their values have now decreased.
Phil Jones remains a Manchester United player. (Image: Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images) “So it is about cutting the losses for the United transfer board and I suspect that they will do that later in the window.”
As well as discussing the range of topics above, our writers also assessed the current links linking Bayern Munich star Leon Goretzka, Ruben Neves of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez with moves to Old Trafford.
RF: “I can’t see too much movement immediately on any of them anywhere. I think on Leon Goretzka, Julian Nagelsmann (the Bayern Munich boss) is encouraged that he will sign a new deal at Bayern. He is entering the final year of his contract. Germany internationals don’t leave Bayern Munich – that doesn’t really happen. So I think he will definitely sign a new deal at Bayern. That is what I would say.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if United were sort of loosely interested in Goretzka because he is a top-flight midfielder. United want a new midfielder.
“Saul Niguez is represented by a London-based agency. Wolves is a difficult one, isn’t it? There seems to be a bit of a reset there at Molineux.
“But he [Neves] is a player that they have had from this sort of rebirth they have had. He was good in the Championship, he came up and may feel that his course is sort of ran at Wolves. He has probably achieved just about everything he could achieve there; I don’t think they are going to break into the Europa League or top-six or top-seven cult of clubs at the moment.”
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