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27th Jul 2017

Manchester United target young midfield powerhouse as Matic/Dier alternative

He has the potential to be world class.

JOE

Who’s next on the list?

Jose Mourinho wants one more signing before the Premier League starts, at the very least. At present he feels that his Manchester United squad is unbalanced in terms of defensive midfield cover. Going into the new season with no further recruits would compromise Paul Pogba’s attacking threat and cause United to be overly reliant on a 36-year-old Michael Carrick.

Thus his passive-aggressive comments directed towards chief exec Ed Woodward who, as we have all being reminded by Jose on numerous occasions, has had the manager’s list of A, B and C transfer targets since March. So far only Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelöf have signed on the dotted line; two more are needed but one – a midfielder – is absolutely necessary.

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Both Eric Dier and Nemanja Matic are preferred options by Mourinho, as they both have Premier League experience and would take relatively little time to bed in. But neither Spurs nor Chelsea are especially keen on selling to a major rival and therefore a demanding hefty premium for the players respectively. Talk of £50m plus is seen as too rich even by United’s standards.

Now it looks as though the Ed and Jose are having to compromise and look slightly further down their wish list, to ‘exciting potential’ rather than ‘tried and tested’. It explains why young Belgian international Leander Dendoncker is suddenly in their sights. The Anderlecht midfielder may only be 22 years of age with only two full caps to his name, but certainly isn’t lacking in talent.

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He was arguably his side’s star performer when United overcame Paars-wit in the quarter-finals of the Europa League, with a commanding display and a thunderous equaliser in the first leg at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium. Many feel Dendoncker has already outgrown the Belgian league with his energetic running, maturity, composure, passing and class on the ball.

Mourinho was clearly impressed and now United intend to give the powerful 6ft 2in ace a final audit before a potential bid of around £34m. Belgian newspaper De Morgen confirm that United will have scouts present at Anderlecht’s opening game of the season on Friday away to Royal Antwerp, as does respected Belgian journalist Kristof Terreur.

If they are suitably convinced that Dendoncker is the next big thing after Matic and Dier, then a formal bid will follow.