In the summer, Manchester United will require midfield reinforcements. Since last summer, a defensive midfielder has been a top goal, but with Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard, and Juan Mata all anticipated to leave on a free transfer in the summer, another midfielder who can play further forward is required.
Argentina has already received reports. United has dispatched scouts to keep an eye on River Plate’s Enzo Fernandez. Real Madrid are also interested in the 21-year-old Argentinian midfielder, but why are Manchester United interested in him?
According to the Independent, Erik ten Hag indicated in his interview for the United position that he wanted to build a club that could play his pressing game while still competing at the highest level in the Champions League for 90 minutes at a time. Fernandez was developed under Marcelo Gallardo and is used to playing the positional game that Ten Hag hopes to install at United.
Fernandez is frequently used as a box-to-box midfielder in River’s midfield, alongside Enzo Perez, who is more defensively minded. With Bruno Fernandes and possibly Donny van de Beek playing the more attacking roles at Old Trafford, a player who can cycle with Fred in a more transitional role would be welcomed.
Fernandez’s work rate and defensive qualities aren’t the only things he has going for him; he’s also a technically competent playmaker who can affect the game while in control. This season, United has struggled to build up from the back, and some fans have grumbled about how slow they are in getting the ball into the opposition’s final third when compared to Liverpool and Manchester City.
Fernandez can pick up the ball in midfield and move it up the pitch reliably, either by carrying it himself or transferring it to a teammate who has moved into space – something that the squad will be seriously lacking if and when Pogba leaves. Fans believe that this type of play will be a feature of Ten Hag’s time at United, as much of the Dutchman’s strategies are focused on movement.
In 11 games for River, Fernandez has four goals and three assists, with his most recent goal coming in a match against Fortaleza on Wednesday night, which United scouts were apparently watching. The midfielder has a £16.6 million release clause, which would allow United to spend more money elsewhere.
Given his lack of experience in European football, signing Fernandez would be a gamble, but it would be an indication that United’s transfer strategy is becoming less evident. In recent years, the club has resorted to signing big-name players without giving much thought to how they would fit into the roster.
Fernandez is a less expensive option who will be stepping up and looking to show himself, and he also matches the profile of what United requires to flourish under Ten Hag. And if he can live up to the high expectations placed on him in Argentina, he could be a wise investment.