The Premier League transfer window opens this Thursday and it’s going to be a busy summer at Manchester United.
Recruitment is already well underway at Old Trafford and clubs have been working and reaching agreements already before the window officially opens, but this is a date when the business will start to warm up. United may not need 10 new players, as Ralf Rangnick claimed in April, but five new arrivals would come as no surprise as Erik ten Hag looks to strengthen his squad.
In a summer of transition, it’s no surprise to see agents using the United name in the media, either as bait for other clubs or to try and get their clients a better deal. But there are players we already know who are being targeted.
READ MORE: Ten Hag to get rid of seven other United players this summer
United have made midfield and attack their priority this summer, but at least one new defender is also on the radar, so what are the chances of players arriving? We have assessed key targets at this time.
Frankie de Jong
It’s the most talked about transfer so far this summer, although it also threatens to be the most drawn out one.
Ten Hag wants his former Ajax midfielder back and Barcelona’s serious financial problems mean they are open to a sale. However, everyone in football knows they need the money, which makes United’s negotiating hand a relatively strong opening when it comes to negotiations with the La Liga club.
The biggest problem could be convincing De Jong to swap the Champions League for the Europa League and the prospect of a rebuild at Old Trafford, even if Ten Hag in charge is an attraction.
If De Jong is essentially forced out of the Nou Camp and United play the strongest for his services, his options could be limited. If other clubs join the race, it could get complicated.
If De Jong took a significant chunk of United’s summer budget, then Nunez would gobble up almost all of it.
United chiefs insist Ten Hag and director of football John Murtough have a ‘significant’ budget to work with and will be supplemented by player sales, but Benfica are likely to demand around 80m pounds sterling for Nunez.
The Uruguay forward signed super-agent Jorge Mendes in April, a sure indication the 22-year-old wants a move this summer and Benfica will want to cash in. He fits the profile of the United striker, but Liverpool are reported to be interested too and much of the talk about Nunez’s future in Portugal is led by agents.
United’s name appears in the Portuguese media more than any other when it comes to players looking to leave Benfica, Porto and Sporting. Ten Hag may admire Nunez, but it’s a tough business to pull off.
It would be an easier move to make, given Ten Hag’s ties to Ajax and his knowledge of the player, while he’s also unlikely to be too expensive. The 20-year-old can play at right-back or centre-back and given United need to get creative this summer, he’s an obvious attraction, especially if Aaron Wan-Bissaka leaves.
United are prioritizing additions to midfield and attack this summer so a new defender may not be imminent, while signings also hinge on the future of Phil Jones, Axel Tuanzebe and Eric Bailly, who could all leave the club.
But when United turn their attention to defence, Timber is a player who could make a lot of sense.
Left-handed centre-backs are rare at the top of the game, which is why Torres has been on United’s radar for at least two years now. United currently don’t have a left foot in their options, but Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane have played on the left side this season.
Torres is one of the best left-handed centre-backs in Europe and could well leave Villarreal this summer. If priority shifts to a left-footed move, the 25-year-old is likely to top the list.
Carmo is another left-footed option and is seen as an alternative to Torres in this position. The 22-year-old is a good age profile for United and would be a fairly under-the-radar transfer, while also being considerably cheaper than Torres.
United have been in talks with their representatives, but progress on a deal will depend on what Ten Hag wants from their centre-back, as well as how many Jones, Tuanzebe and Bailly move on.
The Leeds midfielder was one of United’s first targets this summer window, but the likelihood of a deal has diminished since that interest was first shattered by the Manchester Evening News .
Leeds’ survival in the Premier League has strengthened his own negotiating hand and Phillips, who comes from a family of Leeds fans, has always been aware of the sensitivities of moving through the Pennines. Manchester City have now emerged as suitors for the England international and for Phillips it would be a better move than coming to United, for a variety of reasons.
Rice has been another player United have admired for a few years but a deal this summer is nigh on impossible, given the high price tag West Ham have imposed on him.
The 23-year-old is refusing to sign a new contract with the Hammers but their hand is still strong this summer and talk of a £150million transfer fee will be enough to scare United, City and probably Chelsea.
Even if West Ham were to do business at £100m, it’s too expensive for United this summer, and it’s highly likely that Rice will spend another year at the London stadium before a move in 2023.
Sign up to our United newsletter to never miss an update from Old Trafford this season.