Manchester United identify Declan Rice as prime midfield transfer target

Manchester United have earmarked Declan Rice as their principal midfield target in next year's summer transfer window.

The Manchester Evening News understands United figures have already discussed the potential framework for a deal to sign Rice, 22, from West Ham.

 

Rice is contracted to West Ham until 2024 but he is not expected to sign a new contract, making a move probable next summer as the Londoners would be under pressure to cash in.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted a new midfielder in the recently closed summer window but accepted there was a high possibility the club would not sign one, as United had prioritised a right winger and a centre-back.

Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane joined United on the eve of the season before the club completed the sensational re-signing of Cristiano Ronaldo on deadline day.

United did not receive a concrete offer for Paul Pogba, which was key to no midfield incoming. Pogba has entered the last 10 months of his United contract and there is mounting uncertainty over the future of Donny van de Beek, unused across three fixtures in August.

The United recruitment department was also not convinced there was an attainable 'game-changing' defensive midfield option in the market. United were baselessly linked with numerous midfielders.

 

Rice expressed interest in United when he discussed the possibility of playing for the club with United defenders Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw while on international duty with England in March.

In April, the United football director John Murtough and technical director Darren Fletcher effectively confirmed Rice's curiosity on the fans' forum, when they 'noted that they had heard that from players going away with England [and] other national teams that people have started to ask questions about Manchester United again.'

United believe the influence of their England contingent puts them at an advantage over potential Premier League competitors. Chelsea are long-time admirers of Rice and Manchester City may look to replace the ageing Fernandinho next year.

Maguire and Sancho have joined United on Solskjaer's watch and Maguire chose United over City in his £80million move in 2019.

United's interest in Rice dates back to Jose Mourinho's last year at the club and the midfielder has since established himself in the England side, starting in all seven of their European Championship matches in the summer.

 

 

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