Manchester United would make a move for ‘priority’ target Raheem Sterling in the (admittedly unlikely) event of the Manchester City winger becoming available this summer.
City are appealing their two-year ban from European competition for breaching financial fair play regulations, with the appeal to be heard between 8 and 10 June.
The potential absence of Champions League football has led to speculation that a selection of City’s top players could depart for fear of spending two seasons outside of club football’s most illustrious cup competition.
According to the Independent, if Sterling were to become available in the wake of an unsuccessful City appeal, United ‘will go for him’.
United’s analytics department have singled the 25-year-old out, and he has climbed up the Red Devil’s transfer ‘priorities’ list as a result.
The report concedes that Sterling would be unlikely to swap the blue side of Manchester for red, and if he were to depart the Etihad in the summer, Real Madrid would be his most probable destination.
In addition to Sterling’s likely unwillingness to trade City colours for United, whether United would be willing and able to afford him would remain another sticking point.
The club’s three principal targets this summer remain Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish and Birmingham’s Jude Bellingham.
In April, executive vice chairman Ed Woodward had tempered expectations of lavish summer spending following the financial uncertainty triggered by the coronavirus.
However, the club have since taken out a £140m loan from their revolving credit facility, suggesting they intend to push ahead with their transfer activity.
A move for Sancho would likely see the club break the British transfer record – the £89m they spent to re-sign Paul Pogba in 2016.
Aston Villa have reportedly valued captain Grealish at £80m, although this could be driven down should Villa suffer relegation, while United would likely have to part with £30m to prise Bellingham – also wanted by Dortmund – away from Birmingham.
Sterling is contracted to Man City until 2023, and has enjoyed remarkable success at the club since moving from Liverpool.
The England winger has scored 89 goals and won six major trophies since his 2015 switch, establishing himself as one of the Premier League’s very finest players in the process.
Borussia Dortmund scored six times in an entertaining second-half, including a superb hat-trick from Jadon Sancho, to defeat bottom side SC Paderborn 6-1.
Having picked up a disappointing defeat to title rivals Bayern Munich on Tuesday, Die Schwarzgelben travelled to the bottom-placed club, knowing three points was a must to keep their faint hopes of winning the league alive.
And with Erling Haaland ruled out from the team with a knee problem, the away side chose to recall England winger Jadon Sancho back into the starting lineup to help make up for the missing Norwegian’s attacking prowess…
But it became apparent that it was going to be a difficult game for Dortmund, who struggled to find a way past their opponents throughout the first half, even with the lion-share of possession.
Yet Paderborn couldn’t hold on for much longer, and Thorgan Hazard capitalised to open the deadlock for the away side.
Minutes later, his partner-in-crime Sancho would double the lead for Dortmund, who had suddenly come to life.
The party seemed to be under threat when Paderborn were given a penalty, which was converted by Uwe Hünemeier.
But Sancho had other ideas, curling in a left-foot finish past Leopold Zingerle to restore their two-goal lead.
With the floodgates now truly open, Achraf Hakimi got on the act with his strike that made it 4-1 to Dortmund.
Substitute Marcel Schmelzer, who rarely gets onto the scoresheet, was then presented with a golden opportunity to make it five – which he couldn’t pass up….
And before the referee had time to blow the final whistle, Sancho capped off a sensational second-half display with the team’s sixth goal to seal his hat-trick (the first of his professional career), and a crushing victory over the Bundesliga’s bottom club.
Everyone get the tinfoil hats at the ready, because we’ve got a conspiracy unfolding before our very eyes.
Atlético Madrid stalwart Saúl Ñíguez – who has previously been linked with Manchester United as well as Arsenal – has teased an announcement over his future in just three days’ time.
The 25-year-old has been one of the standout midfielders in La Liga in recent seasons, and has been an ever-present of the Champions League campaign that saw Atléti stun Liverpool back in March. He has made close to 300 appearances for Los Rojiblancos, and with his contract not up until 2026, an exit has never seemed hugely likely, given his value to his boyhood club.
It was a bit surprising, then, when a cryptic Tweet appeared on the player’s official account, which reads: “New club. I’ll announce it in three days.”
Some, naturally, have read the tweet as concrete evidence that he is leaving Atlético in three days time, but that seems a little far-fetched for now.
Such an ahead-of-time announcement would come as out of character for a player whose contract runs until 2026 and who has never so much as hinted at an exit from the club he has served since he was 13 years old.
He’s also one of their prized assets, and his contract status means that he would be very difficult to sign at the best of times; let alone in a summer when a global pandemic is set to slash transfer spending across the board.
The timing of the announcement – hours before the transfer window officially opens and less than two weeks before La Liga resumes – also seems suspect.
This could simply be Saúl’s attempt to poke fun at the infamous ‘La Decision’ saga, which saw his former team-mate Antoine Griezmann announce a special broadcast on Spanish TV, teasing a move to Barcelona in 2018 before deciding to stay put in Madrid.
Or, more likely still he’s announcing a new endorsement, off-field collaboration project or part-ownership in a lower-league side, following Gerard Pique’s example. Some on Twitter suspect the Spain international is even getting involved with his own esports team.
Clearly, Saúl does have something ‘club’ related to announce in three days’ time, and what that could be remains a mystery.
But let’s wait and see before we go mentally assigning him the number seven shirt at Manchester United.
For more from Robbie Copeland, follow him on Twitter!
Every team needs a backup striker – someone ready to sit on the bench and fight for their chance to impress – and Manchester United are no different. They brought in Odion Ighalo for exactly that reason, but the Nigerian might not be around for much longer.
Parent club Shanghai Shenhua are eager to bring Ighalo back as soon as possible, and although United are working to extend the loan into next season, that might not be possible.
Sure, replacing him with a big-money signing would be the dream, but with the focus being on improving other areas of the squad, money is no longed unlimited.
If United do lose Ighalo this summer, here are six ‘budget’ options they could turn to to replace him.
Edinson Cavani didn’t get too many opportunities at Paris Saint-Germain this season as loanee Mauro Icardi dominated the lineup. Now that the Argentine has sealed a permanent switch to the Parc des Princes, Cavani’s time at the club looks to be over.
His contract is set to expire at the end of the season, and with a renewal in Paris looking unlikely, United would be wise to move in. His wage demands might be fairly high, but with no transfer fee to pay at least, it can be done.
The 33-year-old is still a prolific, deadly striker who is capable of scoring goals out of nothing, and his experience would only benefit Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood.
Signing Luka Jović permanently is neither feasible nor sensible this summer, but striking a loan deal for the struggling Serb might be a smart piece of business.
We haven’t seen the best of Jović during his year with Real Madrid, and Los Blancos might just be interested in sending him out on loan before his value plummets even further. A chance to rediscover his best form with United could be best for everyone.
The Jović who bagged 27 goals in 48 games for Eintracht Frankfurt was among the scariest strikers around, and he could be a valuable addition to the furniture at Old Trafford.
Mario Götze’s time at Borussia Dortmund will be coming to an end this summer, and although he isn’t the bruising striker which Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking for, the German could bring something new to the team.
His high-pressing style would help United remain on the front foot during games, forcing defenders into making mistakes deep in their own half. While he might not be the man to score the chances which get created, the fact that opportunities will arise should be good enough.
Even if there are no minutes at striker to come by, Götze could drop deeper into midfield and try pull the strings with his passing. It’s a signing which could boost several areas.
Easily the biggest risk on this list, D’Mani Mellor would also be the cheapest option as he would only need the call-up from the academy.
The 19-year-old was part of the young group who travelled to face Astana in the Europa League in November 2019, and although he still has some growing to do, why not let him do that with the first team?
Solskjaer is not afraid to turn to youngsters when needed, so Mellor would still see plenty of minutes, and it could turn into a stroke of genius.
If the goal is to lure bruising strikers back to the Premier League from China, then turning to Salomón Rondón should be high up on the agenda.
Always up for a physical battle, Rondón comes with 140 games of Premier League experience and is exactly the kind of reserve striker United need.
Similar to Ighalo, a loan deal for Rondón would see United cover a large part of his wages, and an option to buy would allow United to make it permanent if the Venezuelan comes up trumps.
It’s been a tough year for Teemu Pukki, who began the season as a Ballon d’Or contender and is likely to end it by dropping back to the Championship.
In a Norwich City team which has struggled for goals, Pukki has still managed to hit double figures. The 30-year-old can hang in the top flight, albeit not as a starter for somebody like United.
If the Canaries drop down, Pukki could well be available for pennies, and that’s what should make him so appealing to United. He wouldn’t expect consistent minutes, yet would still be a reliable goal threat when on the pitch. The dream.
Arsenal and Manchester United are among a cluster of Premier League clubs who are keeping tabs on want-away Juventus star Federico Bernardeschi, with the Italy international eyeing a move to the Premier League.
The 26-year-old has seen his first-team chances severely limited this season, following the arrival of ex-Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri, and the winger has contributed little when handed the opportunity, scoring only once in 24 appearances.
And La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Sarri’s lack of faith has led to Bernardeschi targeting a move away from Turin, more specifically to the Premier League. And fortunately for the discontent star, there are a number of English clubs keeping a close eye on his next movements.
Heading this list of potential suitors are Man Utd and Arsenal, while Chelsea are also mentioned as a possible home for the ex-Fiorentina star.
Arsenal appear to be the stand-out favourites to land their target, as they are known to be in the market for a forward to bolster their current attacking options.
Bernardeschi arrived at Juve in 2017, having left rivals Fiorentina for a fee of around €40m. But after showing early signs of promise, he has struggled to nail down a regular starting role, and his minutes have been reduced even further since Massimiliano Allegri’s departure at the end of the 2018/19 campaign.
Bernardeschi is a creative and tricky winger, but he can also play behind the striker in a more advanced role, making him an exciting and versatile option for any coach (except Sarri).
The Juve man could be lined up as a possible alternative to Gunners star Nicolas Pepe, who has failed to live up to the hefty fee which Arsenal paid in last summer’s transfer window.
The 25-year-old has shown flashes of his wonderful skill and technique over the course of the campaign, but he has also produced inconsistent and lacklustre displays, leaving Arsenal with some difficult questions to ponder.