Jose Mourinho continues to haunt the Manchester United hotseat as the 2015/16 season nears conclusion, with the Sun newspaper projecting yet more potential Old Trafford signings the Special One is supposedly sweet on.
Whether there is a mole in the Mourinho camp or it’s good old fashioned guesswork, United fans may be left hoping the newspaper is slightly wide of the mark.
While the trio of names provided are naturally headline-grabbing, there are cases to be made against all of them, leaving the News.Ladbrokes team to devise three like-for-like alternatives.
John Stones – Virgil van Dijk
The Everton centre-half is blessed with two good feet and an eye-pleasing composure on the ball. However, the much-hyped Englihsman has also shown a propensity to overplay and be caught out of position. Mourinho may feel he can school the 21-year-old to cut out the mistakes, two of which led directly to the Toffees conceding in the Premier League, as part of only the 12th-meanest top-flight rearguard. For a lot less money, he could instead buy the finished article though. Van Dijk, still only 24, beats Stones in virtually every aspect of nuts-and-bolts defensive work, according to Squawka.com, and even has a higher success rate for taking players on – something Stones is lauded for. The Southampton ace also has three league strikes to his name, compared to none.
Renato Sanches – N’Golo Kante
Making such a positive impact as an 18-year-old debutant midway through an ailing campaign has ensured Benfica’s latest darling will cost the earth. Portuguese clubs are well versed at extracting maximum fees out of rich English clubs and the numbers being bandied about are already around the £40m mark. Sanches is a teenager who has played just a handful of senior games in a far weaker league, whereas Leicester’s sensational Frenchman has proved over an entire season that he has what it takes to run a midfield. Although he would command a sizeable fee, the irony is that Kante would cost United less.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
With all the money saved plumping for the first two alternates on the list, Mourinho could therefore loosen the purse strings for a marquee striker. Zlatan is the popular choice right now given he is free and his name creates a fanfare. Practically speaking, though, he turns 35 in October and the Swede’s wage demands alone would offer questionable value. If the Old Trafford coffers can stretch to it then pushing the boat out for the ultra-prolific Aubameyang, virtually eight years Ibrahimovich’s junior, would be a statement of intent.
With managerial uncertainty blotting the Old Trafford landscape heading to the off-season, the 13-time Premier League champions are still some way down the Ladbrokes pecking order, at 6/1 to win the 2016/17 title.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.