In Focus: Sancho will not be the only new star at the Theatre of Dreams
Manchester United’s protracted pursuit of Jadon Sancho is almost over — but there is still plenty to be done at Old Trafford before the season kicks off.
The Red Devils finished 12 points behind rivals Manchester City in 2020-21 and will need further reinforcements to close the gap on Pep Guardiola’s champions.
With a deal for primary target Sancho all but signed and sealed, we turn the spotlight on the other areas United need to strengthen if they are to catch their noisy neighbours.
Vying for Varane
It is no secret tManchester United are in the market for a centre-back to play alongside Harry Maguire.
The club’s current roster of central defenders includes Victor Lindelof, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly and Axel Tuanzebe.
But an upgrade on those options will be necessary if Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side are to challenge for major honours.
United’s primary target is Real Madrid star Raphael Varane, with the 28-year-old keen on a new challenge after 10 seasons in the Spanish capital.
He will cost around £45million and United appear to be in pole position to secure his signature, despite Paris Saint-Germain’s interest in a player who has won the Champions League four times, LaLiga on three occasions and the World Cup with France once.
The Red Devils would also like to sign England right-back Kieran Trippier to provide competition for Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
That requirement has become less pressing after the emergence of Portugal international Diogo Dalot, who featured 33 times in all competitions while on loan at AC Milan last season.
Nonetheless, Solskjaer will be keen to do a deal for 30-year-old Trippier if Atletico Madrid are willing to reduce their £30m asking price.
Another long-term target is 18-year-old French starlet Eduardo Camavinga, who has a year remaining on his deal with Ligue 1 side Rennes.
It is not hard to see why Solskjaer would be interested.
The France international was in the 96th percentile for tackles per 90 minutes (3.89) when compared with other midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues last season — but he is just as impressive with the ball at his feet.
Camavinga’s 1.98 completed dribbles per 90 placed him in 95th percentile, while he also ranked highly for progressive carries (6.43) and pass completion (89.5%).
With the youngster making it known he will not extend his contract, the question for United is whether to part with a hefty sum now or compete for his signature next summer.
Rice on the radar
Another potential option in midfield is West Ham’s Declan Rice, who former Irons striker Frank McAvennie believes the 22-year-old could replace Fred at Old Trafford.
He said: "Rice will walk into the Manchester United team but would he get in ahead of Scott McTominay?
"Maybe Fred is the one to go because it would be pointless to sign Rice and get rid of McTominay. Fred is the weak link there."
With Rice reportedly turning down two contract offers from West Ham, it may only be a matter of time before the England star makes a move to one of the Premier League's biggest clubs.
With so many areas of the squad to address, departures could end up being as important as arrivals in Manchester over the coming weeks.
Adding a striking option to United’s ranks would certainly boost their title credentials but that may be decided by the club’s ability to shift valuable squad players, such as like £30m-rated Jesse Lingard.
Harry Kane and Erling Haaland reportedly top the club's wanted list but it is hard to imagine them splurging in excess of £100m on either one after forking out £73m for Sancho.
But if United can secure a top-class forward this summer, they really will give the sky blue half of Manchester something to worry about.