Rangnick sees several areas of improvement after Norwich win
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Manchester United may be focused on events on the pitch as the festive fixtures come thick and fast, but they also have one eye on the January transfer window. While Ralf Rangnick’s arrival as interim manager has steadied the ship, with back-to-back wins in the Premier League, problems remain which need to be addressed.
United’s narrow 1-0 win over Norwich on Saturday was most notable for their bluntness in attack, with the team needing a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty to take three points of the league’s worst side, but the main priority remains clear.
United opted not to sign a defensively-minded midfield in the summer, bringing in Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane instead.
But that position surely cannot be neglected any longer. Fred has been impressive during the short time under Rangnick and Scott McTominay has the attributes to kick on.
Yet with Paul Pogba set to leave upon the expiry of his contract in the summer, Nemanja Matic 33 years old and Donny van de Beek more suited to an attacking role, the need for a midfielder is obvious.
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United won’t sign any old player, though. Rangnick has developed his reputation by being extremely hands-on and particular – and he will only settle for the best.
“It needs to be a player who improves the quality, who improves the team to get better, it needs to be a high-quality player, no matter in which area of the pitch,” he said last week.
“If it’s a midfielder, or whatever it is, it needs to be a player who really helps us to get better.”
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He added: “And it needs to be the right mentality, not only the right quality. We also need, especially for this competitive league, to have the best possible mentality.
“They need to be mature enough, have a winning mentality. For me, the mentality is even more crucial than anything league in the world.”
Like many clubs, United have long admired Declan Rice, who ticks all of the boxes Rangnick outlined above.
But the situation remains unchanged on that front: West Ham don’t want to sell and, with Rice under contract until June 2024, they can price rivals out of the market by insisting he is worth £100million.
Having shelled out £73m on Sancho, United are likely to be reluctant to meet the Hammers’ asking price. But they might not have to thanks to developments in France.
Boubacar Kamara is a hugely talented 22-year-old midfielder and his Marseille contract will expire on July 1. From January he is able to talk to other clubs about a free transfer in the summer.
The Athletic says that, despite being a Marseille fan, Kamara wants to leave on a free transfer in the summer, with a challenge outside of France on the cards.
United are ‘across the situation’, but they are far from the only interested party, with Newcastle, Wolves, Bayern Munich and Barcelona also keeping tabs on Kamara.
The widespread interest is understandable, with Kamara an exciting and versatile player of great potential.
While he has made 22 appearances in central midfield for Marseille so far this season, he is also more than capable of playing as a centre-back.
And that is where he takes his influences from, with Sergio Ramos, Virgil van Dijk and Kalidou Koulibaly his idols.
“He is a model,” he told Marseille’s club website about Ramos.
“He is a calm defender, with a great technique, with a good goal-scoring flair. He’s the boss on the pitch. I know I still have a lot to learn, but he inspires me to improve and reach his level. He is aggressive, brave and knows how to impose himself.”
“At the moment I like Kalidou Koulibaly and Virgil van Dijk very much,” he added to Ligue1.com. “They are the two benchmarks in my position, tough players, difficult to pass, with a good long game and plenty of character.”
Those interviews were given before Kamara stepped forward to make defensive midfield his domain, but they both hint at his mentality and show why he would be a good fit at United.
Rangnick prefers to work with young players who have the right attitude and an open mind.
If Rice is the ideal player for United’s long-standing problem then Kamara appears to be a very interesting – and potentially free – alternative worthy of consideration.
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