It was when Jose Mourinho found out through third parties that his January transfer targets weren’t being pursued that he first realised something was up with his job, but he still expected to stay until the summer. It made the dismissal all the more abrupt.
The expectation now is that Manchester United will maintain a relatively frugal stance over the next month – with one notable exception. While so much of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s brief time in charge has been an indictment of Mourinho’s negative management, right down to how the Norwegian recently told the hierarchy that he feels the squad is good enough for this season, he does agree with his predecessor in one area. United need another centre-half.
And that is the one area where the club may now act.
Who they act on, however, will also be interesting. There was a natural reluctance to buy according to Mourinho’s preferences because of the doubts about his future, although one problem in the summer was that Mourinho actually never made preferences clear. He would often change his mind on centre-half targets at the last minute, or said he favoured a different option when the club indicated they were going to move for another.
United have had longer-term targets themselves, however, which may well help the fact that they haven’t put in too much work for January transfers as yet. Many at the club have for a while admired both Milan Skriniar of Inter Milan and – just like many in the world – Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly.
The latter’s availability may have even increased, given that he is said to be considering his future in Italy due to the racial abuse he recently suffered. Napoli would however want Virgil Van Dijk-style money for the centre-half, of around £80m.
A cheaper option may be FC Porto’s Eder Militao, although Solskjaer and the club would prefer a player in that role with more experience than the 20-year-old.
The Norwegian is otherwise willing to press ahead with all players currently there, and feels there is untapped potential in the squad, both in terms of individuals and how they can possibly link up.
Solskjaer is said to be excited about how he integrates a player of Alexis Sanchez’s quality. That willingness to attack, however, may just need that bit more protection in behind.
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