Five Man Utd signings that follow Sir Jim Ratcliffe ‘rules’ to return to Champions League

Will Ford
Man Utd Ratcliffe Zirkzee Fofana
Zirkzee and Fofana are among five Man Utd signings that fit the Ratcliffe rules.

Sir Jim Ratcliffe has set out his new rules and is in the process of getting his ducks in a row ahead of his first transfer window as Manchester United co-owner.

We still don’t know who their manager is going to be, but whoever’s in charge will be working within a tight budget as Ratcliffe has ‘put an end to extravagant spending’.

That, along with his ‘five strict rules’, significantly limits the options for Erik ten Hag or his replacement to revamp a squad in need of a significant operation if not quite “open-heart surgery”. We’ve already come up with five moves thwarted as a result.

The head coach won’t have a great deal of say in summer additions in any case, so this list of five is more for the whoever is currently heading up Manchester United’s recruitment. Dan Ashworth’s still gardening so we genuinely have no idea who that is. Probably the all powerful Jason Wilcox.

We’ve stuck to Ratcliffe’s rules and have attempted to limit the money they’ll be required to fork out. £169m in total, but maybe only a net spend of £150m if they manage to find buyers for Casemiro and Antony.


Michael Olise (£60m)
An awful lot – far too much – has been made of Olise being a Manchester United fan. The Red Devils are going to have quite the battle on their hands to sign the Crystal Palace star this summer: from Chelsea, who have hoodwinked dozens of young stars to buy into their failing project thus far; Liverpool, who will need a Mohamed Salah replacement sooner rather than later; and quite possibly Manchester City, who sold their ideal replacement for Riyad Mahrez in Cole Palmer last summer and could be about to lose Bernardo Silva to PSG. Fandom isn’t going to keep Olise from working under Pep Guardiola.

He’s been the player most consistently linked with Old Trafford since Ratcliffe’s arrival, and you do get the sense that he would quickly become a hero among the fans, because he’s brilliant at football but chiefly because he’s not Antony.

READ MORE: Ranking Michael Olise’s nine summer options: Arsenal 8th, Man Utd 7th, Crystal Palace 2nd


Jarrad Branthwaite (£50m)
The Everton star joins Olise as another signing United are ‘confident’ of completing this summer, in their eyes for around £50m, but unfortunately Everton have looked at £80m Harry Maguire and £70m Wesley Fofana and want something similar. They will recognise the Branthwaite triple tax of being left-footed, a centre-half and English, and have presumably added that to the standard Man Utd tax to come up with their asking price.

Anything around £70m would effectively put an end to United’s interest if Ratcliffe is indeed going to stick to his guns and avoid extravagance in the transfer market, but the INEOS owner may just need to wait out Everton, who face administration without significant player sales.


Youssouf Fofana (£25m)
Linked with United along with Arsenal and Chelsea last summer, and again in January, Fabrizio Romano has confirmed that Fofana is ‘almost guaranteed’ to leave Monaco this summer.

There will be a long queue. Capped 17 times by France, Fofana’s in Didier Deschamps’ Euro 2024 squad after a stellar Ligue 1 season, and key to the widespread interest in the 25-year-old – including from PSG and AC Milan – is his contract expiring in a year’s time. It’s thought therefore that the midfielder, who got eight goal contributions in the French top flight this term, will be available for a snip at £25m.


Joshua Zirkzee (£34m)
Having established that Ratcliffe’s rules will prevent United from signing a Wout Weghorst-like stooge for Rasmus Hojlund next season, to land a backup for the Denmark international, they’re going to have to find a half-decent striker under the age of 25 who’s not going to cost the world. That can only be Zirkzee.

He’s been far from prolific in the Serie A – scoring 11 goals in 34 games – but neither have Bologna as a whole, and it’s chiefly his release clause, active from July 1 to August 15, that’s got some very big teams interested in signing him this summer. Arsenal are currently thought to be leading the charge, but given he is literally the only option fitting United’s very specific requirements, they will surely also be in the mix for the 23-year-old.


Lloyd Kelly (free)
We would have hoped that a Manchester United transfer hijack of Newcastle would set the pulses racing a little more, but we’ll take what we can. Romano reckons Kelly will ‘100% be a Newcastle player in the summer window’ so it would indeed be quite the hijacking, and although a free transfer from Bournemouth is far from marquee material, Jurgen Klopp was also supposedly keen, presumably attracted by Kelly’s versatility as well as the lack of transfer funds required.

He can operate comfortably at centre-back and left-back, both positions United are short in.