Declan Rice is the latest name to be linked with a move to Manchester United ahead of what promises to be a busy summer transfer window.
The MEN understands Rice reached out to England team-mates Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw during the latest international break to gauge whether a move to Manchester United might be possible, and indeed right for him.
That has sparked talk of a United move for Rice, particularly given the midfielder is someone the Reds have had their eyes on for around two years.
It’s likely to take more than £100million for West Ham – who look destined to seal a European place this season – to sell Rice this summer.
But if United do pull off a move, there could be a problem for some of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s current midfielders.
Fred and Scott McTominay have largely operated in the double pivot at the base of midfield so far this season, racking up well over 20 appearances each in the Premier League so far.
And the signing of Rice – a fully fledged England international and stand-out top-flight performer – would likely mean one of those players would be dropped, especially if it takes £100m to get him.
“I don’t agree with the owners that Declan Rice is a £100m footballer. Far, far more than £100m. Far, far more,” West Ham manager David Moyes said last month when addressing the future of his star midfielder, who is under contract until 2024.
“I look at the players who have joined some clubs from overseas and come in and nowhere near had the impact Declan Rice would have.
“I certainly wouldn’t put a price on it. You can decide which figure you want to put on it but I wouldn’t be sanctioning anything like that, that’s for sure.”
If United succeeded in the difficult task of prizing Rice away from the Hammers then Solskjaer would likely then be left with a straight choice between Fred and McTominay. And it might just be the former who would miss out, with McTominay having added another string to his bow with seven goals this season.
Meanwhile, Nemanja Matic, who has only made 16 Premier League appearances – starting just 10 – so far this season, would likely fall completely out of the picture with Solskjaer not needing four options for those two holding midfield roles.
Matic is still under contract until 2023 but, already a fringe player and aged 32, he could be sold ahead of next season to make space should Rice arrive.
Solskjaer has often played a 4-2-3-1 formation, with two holding midfielders behind Bruno Fernandes this season. However, the form of Paul Pogba has meant that set-up has been fluid at times, with the frenchman operating centrally and on the left of midfield.
Meanwhile, the United boss also has Donny van de Beek to consider. The Dutchman, who was signed from Ajax last year, has been a fringe player so far, but has played in one of those central roles when he has featured.
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Van de Beek is already struggling for regular game time, having started just twice in the Premier League for United, so looks like another obvious player to be impacted by the arrival of another high-profile midfielder, although his recent arrival, form and five-year contract mean a departure appears very unlikely.
In truth the wealth of options Solskjaer has in midfield shows why Manchester United are right to prioritise a centre-back and striker over a midfielder this season.
But if Rice does arrive at Old Trafford this summer, then at least one of the midfielders already on the books could be pushed towards the exit.