|Man Utd to sign Alderweireld in January||7/2||Paddy Power|
|Pochettino to be next Man Utd boss||5/4||Coral|
Manchester United have been revitalised under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment on an interim basis following the stagnation under José Mourinho. The Norwegian might only be a four league games into his tenure, but spirits are high and the fans are seeing some of the best football played in the past five years.
Within two training sessions of Solskjaer’s arrival along with assistant Mike Phelan, the players looked brighter and ready to right their wrongs. Of course, there is a case to be made over why they could not perform under Mourinho to the level in which they are playing at now, but a lot of it comes down to the atmosphere that the Portuguese manager created.
After four Premier League games, Solskjaer’s players had scored 14 goals and only managed to concede three.
Their attacking output is at the highest it has been since post-Ferguson and United’s players look like there has been a weight lifted off their shoulders. Instead of the attackers and midfielders sticking to their positions in a regimented fashion, just as they had under Mourinho, the Norwegian manager allows a fluid front line to operate with runners arriving into the box from midfield.
Time will tell whether Solskjaer is appointed on a full-time basis, but he is offered at odds of 11/4 with Ladbrokes to be awarded the job by the first day of next season. The favourite, however, remains Mauricio Pochettino, who is priced at 5/4 with Coral and is the outstanding candidate.
Even with United’s fully functional forward line, one issue remains constant and is not so easily eradicated: their defensive indiscipline. While, man for man, the Red Devils have some talented individual defenders – Luke Shaw, Diogo Dalot, Victor Lindelöf and Eric Bailly – they seem to lack the consistency, experience and, perhaps, confidence to keep clean sheets.
Lindelöf and Bailly are both promising central defenders who have shown signs of quality but are yet to reach their prime and could do with a partner alongside them that is full of experience at the highest level and can pass their wisdom and knowledge on.
Someone like Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld.
Mourinho demanded for a centre-back last summer and insisted on signing the Belgium international from Tottenham. Woodward, however, vetoed that idea when he learned the club were looking for around £50 million, even though all parties were aware of his buyout clause that comes into play in 2019 which allows him to leave for half of that.
With just six months off that clause in Alderweireld’s contract activating, Manchester United might just think Spurs would be in a position to strike up a deal that is slightly more attractive for them before he is able to leave for the fixed price.
Alderweireld, who is 7/2 (Paddy Power) to join Manchester United before the end of the January transfer window, would bring a sense of composure to their defence.
Solskjaer will have seen throughout this season the capacity to slip into chaos when trying to thwart danger from aerial situations or set-pieces. Against Bournemouth, United were punished for poor defensive duties when trying to clear the ball from a corner.
While nobody is expecting Solskjaer to remedy United’s problems within the short period of time he has had to actually coach them, a player of Alderweireld’s quality will only ease that transition in making United a better outfit from the back.
Paired alongside either Lindelöf or Bailly, the Belgian can offer his ball-playing attributes to the team as well as his cool, calm and collected head for when the team find themselves under pressure.
One huge attraction – aside from the money that other teams can also offer – is the fact that Manchester United look to be finally rebuilding properly and efficiently. With the potential arrival of Pochettino in the summer, Alderweireld would understand straight away what the Argentine manager is looking for and can ease that transition by being a key figure on the pitch.
Spurs will surely be open to listening to offers worth more than the £25 million clause in Alderweireld’s contract, but it just depends on how much Daniel Levy, Tottenham’s chairman, values the Belgian if he is to allow him to leave midway through the season with the club striving for silverware.
The Red Devils could not do much better when searching all over the world for a talented, trustworthy and experienced central defender that has experience of playing in the Premier League – especially for the discounted price.
He might be 30 years old come the start of next season, but Alderweireld has shown his world-class qualities on a consistent basis so far throughout his time in England.