The West Ham United midfielder could be the missing piece in the Red Devils’ puzzle.
Manchester United have had a transfer window made of dreams this summer and they look like a team that can finally compete for silverware. With Cristiano Ronaldo, Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho all at the club, a defensive midfielder will be the final piece to their puzzle.
Declan Rice has been one of the most talked-about English midfielders in the Premier League in recent times. His value has rocketed over the last two seasons and he has been linked to several top clubs as well. If Manchester United can get their hands on the defensive midfielder, it could truly change their fortunes.
Khel Now takes a look at five reasons why Declan Rice would be an ideal signing for the Red Devils:
5. Young and Premier League proven
In the 2020/21 season, Manchester United’s squad had the third youngest squad in the Premier League. Declan Rice would be a player who would fit that template well. Manchester United are in dire need of a defensive midfielder and Rice could provide his services for over a decade.
The 22-year-old has played in the Premier League at the highest level for over four seasons now. He is one of the most tried and tested defensive midfielders in the league at the moment. Infact, since October 1, 2018, no outfield player in the Premier League has played as many minutes as Declan Rice.
Declan Rice has emerged as one of the most sought-after midfielders in the Premier League. Labelled with a whopping €100m price tag, there are several reasons behind such a valuation. At the age of 22, Rice has been a pivotal part of successful campaigns for both club and country already. He was the on-field captain for West Ham for the majority of last season, as the club finished at sixth place, thus entering the Europa League.
Rice was also a key figure in England’s run to the final of Euro 2020. The defensive midfielder started all seven games and showed his mettle in difficult situations. The Englishman has shown several signs of being an able leader and would bring important qualities to Old Trafford.
3. Defensively solid
In Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s ideal 4-3-3 formation, a defensively astute midfielder is a necessity. Rice’s physical prowess allows him to be an imposing figure in the air as well as in ground duels. Last season, Rice had a cumulative 145 interceptions and tackles. This is higher than the trio of of Fred, Scott McTominay and Nemanja Matic. Moreover, in a set-piece dominant side such as West Ham United, Declan Rice would bring a lot of aerial prowess with him to Manchester United. Solksjaer’s side have had a poor recent record from set-pieces in the league. Players like Rice will help United deal with all such threats.
The defensive midfielder is also full of energy. Last season, He ran the fourth-most distance in the league amongst all players. With this, not only does Rice have the defensive prowess to play as a holding defensive midfielder but also as a box-to-box midfielder.
2. Can progress ball from deep
Along with being defensively solid, an ever-improving and important trait that Declan Rice has developed over the last few seasons is that of progressing the ball forward from deep. As a lone defensive midfielder, being defensively sound is an important criterion. However, the ability to have comfort on the ball and progress it forward through passes or carries is also crucial.
Over the last few seasons, Rice has developed the ability to dribble and bomb forward with the ball. Last season amongst the likes of Fred, McTominay, Matic and himself, Rice had the highest progressive carries with 4320m,1000m greater than second-placed Fred.
Amongst the same set of players, Rice is the second highest for progressive distance covered with passes after Fred. Playing in a possession-based system or team will help him improve these numbers.
1. Will allow Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba to co-exist in midfield
Individual attributes aside, Rice’s biggest positive would be to allow Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba to co-exist in a midfield three. Previously, the duo played together alongside Nemanja Matic and flourished as a midfield three. Manchester United went on an incredible winning streak in that phase.
Coming back to the present, Nemanja Matic no longer has the legs in him to consistently play the role that brought the Red Devils so much joy. Meanwhile, both Fred and McTominay are not mature enough or positionally sound to play that role. We have seen Fred struggle alongside Pogba several times this calendar year.
With Declan Rice, the Red Devils will have a player similar to the Nemanja Matic of 2019.