Transfers

Four midfield enforcers Manchester United should target in January

 • by Sam McGuire
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The summer transfer window may have shut just over a month ago but plenty of Premier League clubs will already be laying the groundwork to make additions in January.  

And, according to reports in the MEN, Manchester United want to reinforce their midfield this winter and are prepared to spend big to do so. 

The Red Devils were linked with Sean Longstaff and Bruno Fernandes for what felt the entirety of the off-season but deals failed to materialise and Ole Gunnar Solskjær started the new campaign a little light in the middle third having lost Ander Herrera. 

United have started the season well with results not telling the entire story. Their expected goals against total is the second-lowest in the league behind only Leicester City. 

Furthermore, their expected points tally is 9.32, a total only Manchester City can better. They can feel unfortunate to only have seven points on the board at this stage.

Despite this, there are areas to improve and midfield is a good place to start. Here, we take a look at four possible transfer targets for the Red Devils. 

Florian Grillitsch 

Linked with Tottenham Hotspur in January, Grillitsch has enjoyed a solid year at Hoffenheim, benefitting from the education he received under new RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann.

A composed midfielder, the 24-year-old relishes the dirty side of the game, winning 192 defensive duels – 7.3 per 90 – (fourth among Bundesliga midfielders) last term. 

He is also third in interceptions attempted per 90 minutes with 2.7 while his 1.87 tackles won puts him 13th. Quite simply, he’s the player tasked with putting out fires all over the pitch so his more expressive team-mates can do their thing. 

Grillitsch has an excellent first touch and can spot a pass, whether it’s a long, diagonal switch or a piercing through ball that breaks the lines of the opponent.

A solid defensive presence who can also contribute to the build-up, the Austria international could help United build a solid base in the middle third.

Thomas Partey

The 26-year-old would be a smart addition for United. Having caught the eye in both LaLiga and Champions League action for Atléti, he has proven himself at the highest level; something Fred has, so far, been unable to do.

A steady, disciplined presence in midfield, Partey makes few errors and is an effective ball-winner, having gained possession in midfield on 72 occasions (3.58 per 90) last season.

Tall, powerful and boasting impressive balance, the Ghanaian doesn’t give up possession easily either. He also offers a goalscoring threat from distance having scored three times from outside the box this term.

Partey still has his best years ahead of him – and he certainly has the tools to fill the void left by Herrera’s departure. Having honed his craft playing for Diego Simeone, the midfielder can be relied upon to carry out instructions to the T. He could be the perfect counterweight in the middle third. 

Rodrigo Bentancur 

In normal circumstances, his price-tag would be heftier than any other player on this list – the 22-year-old has the potential to become one of the world’s finest midfielders and his ability alone right now would command an eye-watering fee. 

But these aren’t normal circumstances. Juventus are looking to lighten their midfield load having failed to cash in on Blaise Matuidi and Sami Khedira in the summer. Emre Can was forced towards the exit door but still calls Turin home for now.

It might mean that if a decent offer arrives for Bentancur, the Serie A giants could decide to cash in.

United fans may well remember the Uruguay international. He could be found quietly running the show as Juve beat United at Old Trafford in the Champions League last season.

The former Boca Juniors man is accomplished in possession, helped by a tall, almost gangly, slender frame that allows him to ride challenges and get his side further up the pitch.

A dynamic presence, he often darts forward to support attacks, too. There’s a balance to his game which would benefit the United midfield and the team. 

Wilfred Ndidi

A second Leicester City raid. United would have to part with a serious amount of money to pry Ndidi away from the Foxes but it would be a wise decision.

An octopus in the middle third, he seems to appear from nowhere to steal the ball back off the opposition.

Used to playing in a counter-attacking side, Ndidi brings a calming presence to what is at times a frenetic pace. On paper at least, he’d fit in with what the Red Devils are trying to do at Old Trafford.

Solskjær’s tactics revolve around a solid defence and a pacey attack. Ndidi has the ability to help close down the middle third almost single-handedly.

So far this term, only one midfielder, John McGinn, has completed more tackles than Ndidi in the Premier League.

He covers team-mates well. He’s intelligent in his positioning. He could genuinely be the man to help Paul Pogba take his game to the next level. 

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