Manchester United have acted swiftly and decisively in the transfer market so far to bring in Porto defender Diogo Dalot and Brazilian midfielder Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk.
This will be a boost for the club to nail down two targets and move onto summer business which may provide a greater element of complication.
A long-term problem area for United has been left-back and despite Dalot’s ability to play on that side, he has primarily been signed to add competition with Antonio Valencia on the right-hand side.
Luke Shaw has failed to progress as hoped and could exit alongside Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind this summer. Ashley Young has performed admirably in the position but he clearly is not a long-term solution and the converted winger should not be first-choice.
United have been linked with a move for Alex Sandro of Juventus. The 27-year-old has spent three seasons in Turin since joining from FC Porto in 2015 and has excelled for the Bianconeri, who he has helped to three successive titles.
A quick, energetic and offensive minded defender who is also a strong tackler and a good reader of the game, Sandro is also capable of playing in a more advanced wing-back position, or occasionally in midfield.
He has all the attributes that Jose Mourinho seeks in a full back, with his athleticism and work-rate fundamental to how the Portuguese likes his teams to operate.
The United boss also spoke of the ‘champion mentality’ that Porto implemented in Dalot, where he spent four seasons following a switch from Santos, he has won 11 trophies across his most recent three clubs.
Now one of the first names on the team sheet for both Juve and Brazil, his quality is obvious, and he still has several years remaining at the top level.
A Perisic repeat?
However, at 27, it is arguable that such a move from United does not represent a real investment. After all, this could well be the defender’s final big move of his career, should it come to fruition, and he is unlikely to generate a similar resale value.
There are parallels to United’s failed attempts to land Ivan Perisic from Inter last summer. Both are Italian-based players whom Mourinho wanted but the move for the Croatian fell through due to the lack of backing from the United board, and Sandro is just one year younger than Perisic in 2017.
Mourinho’s problematic relationship?
The Portuguese boss is keen to have a decisive say in transfers for the club. Unlike most European clubs, Mourinho is keen to have a hands-on role across various roles other than coaching, and along with United’s executives, he will have been the main man behind a list of transfer targets.
Perisic was the one player whom he could not strike an agreement with those above him (deals for Antoine Griezmann and Gareth Bale fell flat for other purposes).
It may also play out that United’s funds are directed to other parts of the squad. Sandro’s £50 million valuation could be viewed as excessive, especially due to his age bracket and defenders typically cost less.
United fans can be encouraged by their club’s proactive approach in this transfer window but only from now can we really gauge their intent.
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