PICK OF THE BUNCH
David de Gea is a Premier League winner, a five-time Team of the Year and one-time World XI goalkeeper, and has kept 94 clean sheets in 249 English top-flight appearances (37.7%).
Jordan Pickford has been relegated from the Premier League, has a bloody mint kick on him, and has kept 17 clean sheets in 81 English top-flight appearances (20.9%).
It is perhaps too harsh a description of Pickford, who was excellent at Sunderland and has been great since joining Everton. But it is an example of the understandable gulf between him and De Gea.
Yet The Sun say Manchester United see Pickford as the ‘perfect replacement’ for the Spaniard, whose continued contractual wranglings are starting to worry Old Trafford chiefs.
‘MANCHESTER UNITED will bid for Jordan Pickford to replace David De Gea,’ reads a first paragraph that leaves absolutely no room for manoeuvre. ‘United are yet to decide whether to cash in on the Spaniard at the end of the season. However, they are sure about who they want to come in for him.’
We are then told that Jose Mourinho ‘has been a fan of Pickford for some time while all his staff are in the same camp’. England’s No. 1 ‘has the bottle for the big stage’. They’ve missed a trick not linking to this.
There is only one mention of a price, and it handily comes as early as the headline. Pickford signed a new Everton deal only recently, and cost £30m when he joined from Sunderland in summer 2017. It will take exactly double that to sign him now.
In another Sunday transfer exclusive – the tastiest rumours always seem to emerge on the day of supposed rest, don’t they? – we are told that United ‘have officially declared their interest in’ West Ham defender Declan Rice.
Quite how they’ve done so is anyone’s guess. But Mourinho ‘is keen on’ Rice, whose ‘versatility’ appeals. As a centre-half who can play in holding midfield, he could solve United’s ‘problem position’ at the back.
Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund are circling too, while ‘it wouldn’t be a surprise’ if Manchester City ‘also showed interest’.
The story comes from the Daily Star, who add that Rice is valued at ‘around £15m’. Our running total is now £75m, folks.
YOURI THE ONE
The final paragraph of that story is just thrown into the internet ether for some reason. And it relates to Mourinho’s recent scouting trip.
The Portuguese was in Belgium in midweek – apparently admiring the weather – to send speculation into overdrive. With neither Marouane Fellaini nor Romelu Lukaku featuring in a 2-0 win over Iceland, it was thought that long-term target Toby Alderweireld was on the agenda.
But the Star chuck in a completely different name.
‘But the UEFA Nations League fixture also gave the United boss the opportunity to run the rule over another Belgium player, Monaco midfielder Youri Tielemans, 21, for whom the French club want £25million.’
So that’s Pickford, Rice and Tielemans, who did indeed play 90 minutes in holding midfield on Thursday, signing for a combined £100m. Lovely.
The final piece of this weird jigsaw takes us to the Daily Express. Eurgh.
It pertains to that problem position at centre-half, where Mourinho wants Raphael Varane or Kalidou Koulibaly in an ideal world. Yet new England debutant Lewis Dunk is ‘on his radar’.
Dunk only recently signed a new contract with Brighton, yet United ‘are still confident they can tempt him away from the seaside’. We now have a clear image of Chris Hughton promising Dunk more sandcastles to get him to stay.
The 26-year-old – who would just not be an upgrade on what United currently have – is also wanted by Everton, Leicester and Southampton. And his new contract means ‘United could be forced to spend big for Dunk,’ with a potential ‘large release clause involved’ in his new five-year deal.
So Pickford, Rice and Tielemans for £100m, then Dunk for a ‘large release clause’ on top of that? Maybe Garth Crooks was right all along.
AND THE REST
Manchester City have beaten Barcelona to the £61m signing of Ajax and 21-year-old Netherlands midfielder Frenkie de Jong… Liverpool are set to sign Hoffenheim’s Germany midfielder Kerem Demirbay, 25, in the January transfer window… But Liverpool’s hopes of signing £60m-rated Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt look to be over, with the 19-year-old Netherlands international now bound for Barcelona… Paris St-Germain have joined Arsenal and Tottenham in expressing an interest in Manchester United’s 24-year-old Ivory Coast defender Eric Bailly… Liverpool are prepared to sell Brazil midfielder Fabinho, 25, to fund a £70m move for 20-year-old Borussia Dortmund and United States winger Christian Pulisic, who is also a target for Chelsea… Venezuela forward Salomon Rondon, 29, aims to secure a permanent move from West Brom to loan club Newcastle by scoring regularly over the winter.