Man Utd can sign their own Fabinho to correct costly Jose Mourinho transfer mistake

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Under Jose Mourinho, Manchester United rejected the opportunity to sign Fabinho from Monaco. Eric Dier of Tottenham was instead Mourinho’s chosen target, although he didn’t end up at Old Trafford either, instead staying at Spurs where he remains today.

The Portuguese coach wanted a player established in the Premier League and eventually brought in Nemanja Matic instead. The fact Fabinho was previously a right-back before being converted into a holding midfielder was also said to have counted against the Brazilian alongside his lack of knowledge of England’s top flight.

Instead, Fabinho joined Liverpool in 2018 and is now arguably the greatest ball-winning No 6 in world football. After recruiting Matic, United signed Fred a year later instead for almost £10m more than their bitter rivals paid for his fellow South American.

If they could rewind time, you sense United would recruit Fabinho instead of either Matic or Fred, having watched him turn into such a brilliant and irreplaceable player for Liverpool, helping them win the Champions League and the Premier League.

Holding midfield is the position United most need to bolster at this present moment in time and there is one particular player the Red Devils can realistically recruit who can be their very own Fabinho.

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That is West Ham’s Declan Rice, who is proving this season he’s not just a player capable of reaching the level of a Fabinho defensively but that he can contribute even more than his counterpart offensively too.

Rice’s long-distance strike in the Hammers’ 4-1 thrashing of Aston Villa on Sunday, in which he also contributed an assist, means he has three goals and three assists in 13 games this term.

That means he is one assist shy of matching the tally he managed in the past two seasons combined. The 22-year-old is asserting himself as one of the Premier League’s very best midfielders and has a long and successful career ahead of him at club and international level.

Likened to a peak Roy Keane recently by Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher, Rice is constantly improving his ability not just to dominate games on and off the ball but also to get forward in possession and win them.

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He’s becoming more and more well rounded with each and every game and it’s no wonder David Moyes, another former United manager, rates the 27-cap England international at £100million plus.

“There was a bargain to be got with Declan at £100million. That bargain has now gone,” the Scot said succinctly. It will likely cost an interested club closer to £150m.

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The Manchester Evening News say United have made Rice their number one target to significantly upgrade their midfield from the summer of 2022 and it’s little wonder why.

The West Ham vice-captain is near the top of the list – if not at the very top – when it comes to Premier League central midfielders for most minutes played, most tackles, most ball recoveries, most aerial duels, most passes, most touches and most assists.

There are also qualities he offers which cannot be quantified by statistics, most notably his leadership abilities which defy his age.

He is the lynchpin of this West Ham team of course, but Rice is proving he can operate at the highest level. He deserves a chance to shine on the Champions League stage and to be competing for the biggest prizes.

And he surely would do so at United, given the talent of the club’s playing squad, even if those currently in the dugout may not be of equal ability.

Rice would instantly be United’s best central midfielder – accounting for the fact Paul Pogba’s best displays this season have come from the left wing – and could have a transformative effect on the team’s structure and balance, just as Fabinho did for Liverpool.

It will not be easy to steal the former Chelsea academy prospect from West Ham given Moyes’ side are on an upward trajectory and his worth to them is enormous, but United must do all they can to sign Rice.

Missing out on him, with Chelsea and Manchester City among the other clubs keeping a keen eye on his talents, might end up being even costlier a mistake than passing up on Fabinho.

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