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Declan Rice fits Solskjaers blueprint but he isnt the £80m answer to Man Utds midfield problem

The midfielder has been linked with a big-money move to Old Trafford from West Ham (Picture: Getty)

It seems that with every passing week there is a footballer auditioning for a role to become part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaers future all-star cast at Manchester United.

Last weekend, all eyes were on Leicester Citys schemer James Maddison, who according to reports is Uniteds priority target next summer as they seek to sprinkle some creative stardust over a rather functional midfield.

This Sunday, it is the turn of West Hams water-carrier Declan Rice to enter the spotlight amid speculation that Solskjaer has politely asked Ed Woodward to add his name to Uniteds long list of transfer targets – this despite him being valued by the Hammers at between £80-90m.

Rice certainly ticks most of the boxes that Solskjaer and United are looking for in players at the moment. Hes 20 years old, hes English and hes accumulated a good amount of Premier League experience thus far, featuring just under 70 times for the Hammers.

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That being said, is he what United really need? And perhaps more pertinently, is he worth the amount of money that West Ham are apparently demanding for him?

Would he improve Manchester Uniteds midfield?

Although the signings of Daniel James, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire were welcomed by Manchester United fans, the biggest bone of contention over the clubs summer business was the failure to add a central midfielder to the squad.

United have lost far more technical and influential players in the past than either Marouane Fellaini or Ander Herrera but allowing both to leave in the space of six months without replacing either represents rather questionable decision-making.

Of Uniteds existing options in central midfield there is Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Andreas Pereira, Nemanja Matic, Fred and at a push, Jesse Lingard. With all due respect, it isnt the most formidable collection of midfielders that United have ever had.

Without Paul Pogba, Manchester Uniteds midfield options are limited (Picture: Getty)

Pogbas absence through injury against Leicester emphasised Uniteds paucity of options in midfield with McTominay partnered by Matic and Pereira in a distinctly workmanlike midfield trio, with the unconvincing figure of Fred also making a second-half appearance.

It would be difficult to argue that signing a midfielder who has played in five of Englands last six games and started 39 of West Hams previous 43 Premier League matches would do anything other than strengthen what is unquestionably a problem position for United at this moment in time.

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Is he too similar to existing options?

Rice spent a chunk of his youth career split between Chelsea and West Ham playing as a central defender but it is as a defensive-minded No.6 that he has enjoyed his breakthrough, shielding the back four in an authoritative manner that belies his years.

Last season, Rice made 150 tackles and interceptions combined in the Premier League – more than any other West Ham player – while only Felipe Anderson completed more passes. Those statistics highlight Rices ability to not only break up play but also help dictate it. The question is, though, is that what United really need?

Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay battles with Southampton defender Kevin Danso for possession
Scott McTominay performs a similar role in Manchester Uniteds midfield to Declan Rice at West Ham (Picture: Getty)

Would I say yes now at £80m or £90m? Im not feeling that personally at this moment in time. But am I seeing a really good player who could potentially develop into something fantastic for the next 10 years? Yes, I really do think that, said Gary Neville on Monday Night Football.

But would I go and spend that much money on a player [on potential]? Do Manchester United need another player [like that]? Theyve already got Nemanja Matic, theyve already got Scott McTominay, who are doing a similar role to what I see Rice doing.

Neville makes a sound point. Although United are short of central midfielders, they arent necessarily short of defensive midfielders. On average, McTominay attempts more passes and fewer tackles than Rice does, but that is probably because he plays in a side that averages 4 per cent more possession per game.

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In terms of what they offer offensively, Rice and McTominay are virtually the same. McTominay has averaged 1.2 shots per game to Rices 0.8, made 0.6 key passes to 0.4 and attempted 1.6 dribbles to 1.8.

It is debatable whether there would be too many occasions in which United would need both in the same starting XI.

Could the money be better spent elsewhere?

Manchester United flirted with the idea of signing an attacking midfielder during the summer with SpoRead More – Source

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