Amid Manchester United’s search for a young defensive midfielder, West Ham United star Declan Rice is interested in a move to Old Trafford.
The Manchester Evening News understands Rice is interested in joining United and has asked Old Trafford players about the club during the England national team’s World Cup qualifiers last month, with Dean Henderson, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford all part of Gareth Southgate’s recent squad.
Rice has had an exceptional season with West Ham in 2020/21, making 29 league appearances so far in this campaign, with the midfielder playing a major role in helping the Hammers challenge for a place in the Premier League top four.
David Moyes’ side are currently sitting in fourth place in the league table with 55 points, one point ahead of Chelsea, with seven games to play.
This got us thinking, just how big an impact could Rice have at United if the midfielder signed for the club this summer?
To find out, and have a bit of fun, we used Football Manager 2021 to simulate the future and see what could happen.
We ‘signed’ Declan Rice for Man United in the summer of 2021
To set up this simulation, we used the Football Manager 2021 editor to arrange for West Ham midfielder Declan Rice to join Man United on July 1, 2021 using FM21 to run our simulation.
Football Manager (FM) is the world’s leading football management simulation title. The latest edition of the game, FM21, is out now on PC, Mac, Mobile, Touch and Xbox.
The Football Manager database currently contains data on more than 800,000 individuals and 45,000 active clubs.
Data is sourced from their international on the ground scouting network which numbers roughly 1,000 people, among their ranks are some who are involved in football in professional capacities, including scouts and coaches.
This is what Rice’s profile looks like on FM21 as of July 2021 in-game.
Before we go into the simulation, United also signed RB Leipzig midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, with Andreas Pereira, Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata and Nemanja Matic all moved on.
With Rice in the United squad next season, this is what happened!
Declan Rice’s 2021/22 season for United predicted
With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer preferring a 4-2-3-1 formation throughout this simulated season, Rice formed a strong partnership with Paul Pogba in central midfield, with both players offering goals and assists from midfield, whilst also offering defensive solidity.
Rice was one of the players who made the most appearances for United during the simulated 2021/22 campaign, making 51 appearances in all competitions, all of which were starts.
What may surprise you is that, in these 51 appearances, Rice managed to bag 10 goals and register 13 assists, with seven goals and eight assists in 32 Premier League starts.
In fact, only Bruno Fernandes (19) registered more assists than Rice for United in this simulated season, with Pogba also finishing the season on 13.
But his offensive output only tells half the story, because Rice was a huge defensive presence in midfield, helping to protect the Reds back four.
The stats below showcase Rice’s ability in offense and defense.
Rice had a 90% pass accuracy rate, whilst he also won 77% of his tackles in all competitions.
And in the Premier League, only teammate Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Virgil van Dijk and N’Golo Kante won more tackles throughout the season than Rice.
At the end of the 2021/22 season, Football Manager 2021 put together an overall best United XI, based on performances, statistics and other metrics.
This is how the best United XI looked in 2021/22 according to FM21.
Full United best XI: De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Maguire, McTominay, Shaw; Pogba, Rice; Sabitzer, Fernandes, Rashford; Greenwood.
Such was Rice’s form in midfield, added to Solskjaer’s desire to have Scott McTominay in the side at all costs, the Scot actually spent most of the season alongside Harry Maguire as a centre-back, with new signings Rice and Sabitzer in the team too.
Mason Greenwood was the club’s top goal scorer, finishing the campaign with 28 goals in all competitions.
So, how did United perform in all competitions in our simulated season with Rice in the squad?
United’s 2021/22 season with Rice
Here is how the final 2020/21 PL table looked once our simulation finished at the end of May 2022.
United finished in second place in the Premier League, but the Reds fought their rivals City all the way, with Pep Guardiola’s side only finishing five points ahead of United.
United earned 86 points in 38 games, which is very impressive.
To put this points tally into context, the Reds are currently on 63 points, with seven matches remaining, and could only reach a maximum of 84.
Solskjaer’s side also won a major trophy, with United winning the FA Cup, following their 2-1 win against Liverpool at Wembley.
The Reds also had a superb Champions League run, beating City, Real Madrid and Porto on the way to the final, but were eventually beaten by Borussia Dortmund.
Football Manager 2021 predicts that Rice would be a superb signing for Manchester United next season, offering superb defensive contributions, whilst also being effective going forward from midfield.
The simulation suggests that with Rice in midfield, United could be within touching distance of a Premier League title next season, even with McTominay at centre-back!
As always these simulations are just one way of predicting a player’s prospective impact, but it’s interesting to see how FM21 predicts the future could play out if Rice did sign for United this summer.
Would you like to see United sign Declan Rice this summer?
*Football Manager (FM) is the world’s leading football management simulation title. The latest edition of the game, FM21, is out now on PC, Mac, Mobile, Touch and Xbox.
The Football Manager database currently contains data on more than 800,000 individuals and 45,000 active clubs, with data sourced from their international on the ground scouting network which numbers roughly 1,000 people, among their ranks are some who are involved in football in professional capacities, including scouts and coaches.