England midfield performance proves Manchester United have made a massive mistake
Declan Rice showed Manchester United what they’d missed out on in the recently closed transfer window with a stunning performance in England’s 4-0 win against Hungary on Thursday night.
Unfortunately, racial abuse aimed at Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham overshadowed what was a stellar team performance from the Three Lions, with Rice’s displays one of the best on the night.
West Ham seemingly priced their player out of a move away from the club this summer, with a reported price tag of £100 million slapped on his forehead.
After the purchases of Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo, the United hierarchy didn’t feel they could sanction a move for Rice, especially given the lack of matchday revenue generated last season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Rumours circulated that Jesse Lingard could be included in any move for the player, though it’s unclear whether United actually ever made an official bid for the West Ham man.
If it transpires that Uniteddidn’tmake a move for Rice, his performance in Budapest will likely have Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wishing he’d tested the Hammers’ resolve.
Rice won 67% of his defensive duels against Hungary, but what’s more impressive is he made nine interceptions, stopping multiple attacks.
This allowed Kalvin Phillips the freedom to get forward much like Tomas Soucek does when Rice is playing for West Ham.
The midfield man can be trusted not to neglect his defensive duties and is unlikely to make mistakes.
The phrase ‘to unlock Paul Pogba’ is used quite often by United fans, but Pogba does his best work when the shackles are released and he doesn’t have to worry as much about tracking back. He can put in the odd challenge to win the ball higher up the pitch, yes, but he’s at his best when he doesn’t need to be sprinting back into his own half and can rely on his teammates to do the dirty work.
A player like Rice next to the Frenchman would allow him to concentrate on showcasing his offensive skills, and if Pogba was to leave on a free transfer next summer – something that’s still not out of the question given the ongoing contract talks – whoever was placed next to Rice in midfield would benefit greatly from having a dedicated defensive midfielder.
One of the problems United have had so far this season is that their defense and attack have been disjointed due to the midfield making mistakes in possession.
United could regret not making a move for Rice
Rice completed 92% of his attempted passes against Hungary. This shows he was very much involved in England’s build-up play and was comfortable in a team that enjoyed 64.3% possession across the 90 minutes.
He also completed eight passes into the final third with none of said passes going astray, proving he can make an impact moving forward.
Oh, and there’s also the small matter of how he bagged himself a goal from outside the area. We’re going to overlook the absolute howler from Peter Gulacsi, the fact is that Rice was willing to take the shot and he got his reward.
It’s clear why Solskjaer identified Rice as his main midfield target because based on his numbers he looks to be a perfect fit for United’s starting XI.
Under the stewardship of former midfield maestro Michael Carrick, he’d only continue to improve. Scott McTominay already seems to have benefitted from working with Carrick in training and Rice would definitely follow suit were he to come to United.
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Having missed out on Rice this summer, United have left themselves with a massive void in midfield.
Next season, they’re likely to face competition from Chelsea for his signature, with the west London club also understood to be monitoring the progress of the player they released their academy many years ago – don’t worry Chelsea fans, us United supporters feel your pain on that one.
The Blues will soon be looking for a long-term replacement for N’Golo Kante, and given the fact Rice is eight years younger than the Frenchman and is good friends with young starlet Mason Mount, they could make a move for the West Ham man next summer.
However, after United flexed their pulling-power-muscle in the 2021 summer transfer market, they’ll fancy their chances of being able to convince Rice to move to Old Trafford, because you can guarantee with performances like he produced on Thursday night, they’ll be back in for him again next year.
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