Man Utd backed to repeat Eric Cantona transfer if Ralf Rangnick opts to snub top target

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Manchester United’s midfield has been the bane of their woes for several seasons now. With Paul Pogba still weighing up his future and Donny van de Beek destined to leave due to lack of minutes, interim boss Ralf Rangnick may deem the January transfer window as the perfect opportunity to improve upon Scott McTominay and Fred.

Over the summer, the Red Devils were linked with Brighton’s Yves Bissouma, now-Real Madrid playmaker Eduardo Camavinga and Monaco’s Aurelien Tchouameni, but no deals were ever reached.

The arrivals of Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane masked the issue somewhat for then-manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but it didn’t take long until it became noticeable that United were still lacking some firepower in midfield.

If the Old Trafford outfit are to return to their glory days and close the gap on rivals Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea in the long-tern then Rangnick needs to prioritise an acquisition in the centre of the park.

The Sun reported earlier this month that Leeds’ Kalvin Phillips was a United target but many pointed to the rivalry between the two clubs as the reason a deal would not be able to be reached.

However, former Premier League forward Gabriel Agbonlahor believes that the Englishman will emulate Eric Cantona’s move from Leeds to United if he gets the opportunity.

Speaking to Football Insider, the ex-Aston Villa player said: “Phillips will go wherever is good for him and wherever is good for his career.

“Those rivalries are silly. I know Leeds and Man United have history but it’s not like it’s Leeds and Bradford or Aston Villa and Birmingham City.

“It’s not enough to stop him from playing Champions League football and playing at a big club like Manchester United.

“I’m 100 per cent sure he would still make that move if an offer is accepted. It’s not a rivalry that I think should stop a player from making the move. Eric Cantona did it, so I don’t think it will stop a player from moving.”

Phillips’ price rose markedly over the summer after he impressed at Euro 2020 for Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions side, protecting the backline well but also not being afraid to push on and try and influence the attack.

The 25-year-old played alongside West Ham midfielder Declan Rice at the tournament, who Rangnick will need to veto signing if he is to bring Phillips to the Theatre of Dreams.

The Manchester Evening News reported in September that Rice was United’s top target and that the club were already working on a deal to prise the 22-year-old away from the London side.

However, after Hammers boss David Moyes revealed that Rice would cost a significant amount more than the £100million that he was available for in the summer, signing both members of the England midfield partnership looks somewhat unlikely given the fees involved.

With West Ham also battling it out with United for the Europa League/Champions League spots, one would imagine that Rice’s price will be inflated even further.

If Rangnick wants to prepare United for a title charge under his successor, the former RB Leipzig boss will be hoping that Agbonlahor is correct in his evaluation of the Phillips situation and that he is able to prioritise that signing over breaking the bank for Rice.

A move could be made even more likely if Pogba finally decides on his future at United, if he makes it known that he has no intention of playing at Old Trafford next season then it would be far from a shock to see the Frenchman sold in January to fund a new incoming.

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