Three reasons Man Utd need to pull out the stops to beat PL rivals to £26m-rated left-back

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho is on the hunt for a new left-back and he needs to do everything he can to ensure the Red Devils beat Premier League rivals Manchester City and Chelsea to the signing of AS Monaco left-back Benjamin Mendy this summer.

The 22-year-old Frenchman has starred for Monaco as they chase a first Ligue 1 title in 17 years this season. He joined the club in a £13 million deal from Marseille last summer but is expected to be on the move again this summer, with an offer of around £26 million expected to be enough to force Monaco’s hand.

Mourinho’s critical comments about Luke Shaw in recent weeks suggest he may not see a long-term future at Old Trafford for the youngster. Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian are also options at the position but none of them are natural left-backs and struggle to get up and down as much as Antonio Valencia on the opposite wing.

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Mendy would give Manchester United a fresh look and another attacking outlet down the left side. He has proven his quality in Ligue 1 and in the Champions League this season so here are three reasons United need to do all they can to sign him in the coming months…

1. Attacking threat from left-back

Mendy would offer United something they don’t currently have – a consistent attacking outlet down the left side. Luke Shaw is an attacking full-back but is clearly not one of Mourinho’s favourites, while Matteo Darmian struggles to offer regular support in the attacking third.

Mendy has eight league and Champions League assists this season – more than any other defender in Europe, including Real Madrid’s Marcelo and Bayern’s David Alaba who are both rated as two of the world’s best in the position.

Antonio Valencia gives United a regular threat from right-back but they become quite one-sided due to the lack of similar support on the left, so the addition of Mendy would add balance as well as some much-needed creativity from deep.

2016/17 League Stats
Games
Assists
Chances
Created Per 90 Mins
Pass
Completion (%)
Tackles
Won Per 90 Mins
Benjamin
Mendy
21
5
1.05
76%
1.9
Luke
Shaw
10
1
1.32
85%
0.92
Matteo
Darmian
12
0
0.21
81%
2.00

Table: Benjamin Mendy’s league statistics compared to Luke Shaw and Matteo Darmian this season (stats via: Squawka).

2. Play style perfectly suits the Premier League

The table above shows how Mendy compares to Shaw and Darmian – the two most natural left-backs United have at their disposal at the moment. His stats suggest he is a well-rounded full-back, who is as adept at winning the ball back as he is creating chances. His pass completion could be better but 66% of his passes go forward, further highlighting his direct approach.

Premier League full-backs that can get forward quickly but also defend well in 1v1 situations tend to standout and Mendy fits that billing perfectly. A move to Old Trafford could see him establish himself as one of the club’s best left-sided defenders, as his approach to the game isn’t too dissimilar to that of Patrice Evra’s when he joined the Red Devils in 2006.

3. Bright future ahead

Mendy is still only 22. That’s easy to forget considering he made his professional debut almost six years ago. But he has established himself as one of Europe’s best full-backs this season as Monaco continue to impress domestically and in the Champions League.

Mendy made his France debut last month, getting an assist in the 3-1 win over Luxembourg and a long and successful career is expected for club and country, no matter where he is plying his trade.

Luke Shaw is a year younger than Mendy but with his future unclear, the Frenchman would be an ideal replacement this summer and would potentially give Manchester United a reliable and improving left-back for many years to come.

Should Man United do everything in their power to sign Benjamin Mendy this summer?

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Premier League Preview and Prediction: Southampton vs Manchester United

Competition: Premier League – Southampton vs. Manchester United

Venue: St. Mary’s Stadium – Sunday, September 20 – 16:00 BST (11:00 ET)

Match Odds: Southampton 15/8 – Draw 11/5 – Manchester United 6/4

Match Preview

Southampton host Manchester United in this week’s later Super Sunday clash, in a game that should be a low scoring affair between two sides that will look to keep things tight defensively.

Both sides boast stern defences, proved by the fact that the Saints haven’t conceded in their last three Premier League outings.

Sunday will also see Morgan Schneiderlin return back at his old stomping ground, St. Mary’s, just months after leaving. The French international spent seven years with the south coast side before his summer move to United.

Southampton’s 2015 Premier League Record: P5 – W1 – D3 – L1

United come into the game off the back of a dismal night in Eindhoven on Tuesday which saw them lose 2-1 to Dutch champions PSV and lose key man, and former Saint Luke Shaw to a horrific leg break.

They will be hoping for a better result on Sunday, and will also be hoping to see another wonder goal from new striker Anthony Martial, after he set Old Trafford alight with a solo effort last Saturday in his United debut against Liverpool.

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Though, should captain Wayne Rooney be fit to start, Martial make have to make an appearance off the bench. The Englishman remains a doubt but could be in line to start.

Manchester United’s 2015 Premier League Record: P5 – W3 – D1 – L1

Team News

Southampton are missing Fraser Forster, Ryan Bertrand and Florin Gardos with knee injuries. Jordy Clasie and Gaston Ramirez are still struggling to shake off niggling injuries and will miss the visit of United.

Manchester United will be without defenders Luke Shaw and Phil Jones for the trip to Saints. Shaw suffered a double fracture in his right leg in Champions League action on Tuesday night and Phil Jones is still struggling with a blood clot. Wayne Rooney is a doubt with a hamstring injury but could return in place of Anthony Martial.

Key Points

Southampton’s last five: D/L/D/W/D

Manchester United’s last five: W/W/D/L/W

Key Stat: Manchester United have won on six of their last seven away trips to Southampton in all competitions.

Key Player: David De Gea – After a summer in limbo, Spanish stopper De Gea returned to his frightening best with a stellar display that earned United all three points against Liverpool last week. He remains United’s best asset and will be important here.

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Score Prediction

Southampton 0-2 Manchester United – We’re not expecting it to be as easy as the scoreline may suggest for the Red Devils but we still expect them to take all three points and remain in the early season title chase.

‘Done deal’: Manchester United beat Chelsea to £15m star – report

Manchester United look to have beaten Chelsea to the signing of Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne, as Daily Mirror journalist David McDonnell has told MUTV that “its a done deal”.

Clyne has put in some impressive performances under Ronald Koeman this season but as was the case last summer, good displays lead to links away from the Saints, and Clyne is believed to be worth around £15 million as he has just one year left on his current deal.

United and Chelsea have been linked with moves for the England international but the Red Devils have won the race to sign the 24-year-old defender if McDonnell is to be believed.

The Mirror journalist told MUTV: “United want him, what I’m told is it’s a done deal.”

If the deal is completed, Clyne will follow former teammate Luke Shaw to Old Trafford and the English duo could link up on either side of the United defence as they did so successfully at Southampton last season.

Clyne, who can also play at left-back, has made 29 Premier League appearances this season and has scored twice.

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Brazilian full-back Rafael is looking likely to leave United this summer as he has just one year remaining on his contract and Louis Van Gaal will want to cash in on the defender after an injury-hit campaign.

Nothing has been confirmed by either club but the signs are pointing towards Nathaniel Clyne wearing a Manchester United shirt next season.

Would Nathaniel Clyne be a good signing for Manchester United? 

Manchester United preparing £25m swap deal for Saints star

Manchester United are preparing to make a summer move for Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne in a £25 million deal that will see Javier Hernandez head to St Mary’s, according to Goal.

The Red Devils are looking to bring in a new right-back this summer as Rafael will have just one year to run on his contract at the end of the season, and Clyne has been extensively scouted by United over the course of the campaign.

Southampton are interested in signing Hernandez and his involvement in any deal could be key, though Real Madrid currently have first refusal on the Mexican striker who is on loan with Los Blancos.

United would reportedly be willing to offer Southampton £15 million plus Hernandez for Clyne as they look to raid the Saints for their star full-back for the second consecutive year.

Luke Shaw joined United for around £30 million last summer and Louis Van Gaal wants to reunite Clyne with the young left-back at Old Trafford.

Dani Alves is also believed to be a target, as was FC Porto right-back Danilo before he agreed to join Real Madrid.

But Clyne has proven to be one of the Premier League‘s most energetic defenders this year, and that excites Van Gaal, who could use him in a 3-5-2 system or a more traditional setup with four at the back.

The 23 year old has made 28 starts under Ronald Koeman this season and has just over a year remaining on his current deal.

Southampton have enjoyed a fine season and currently sit just six points behind fourth-placed Manchester United with eight games to play. But their success could lead to a number of first-team stars leaving the club as was the case last summer.

Would Nathaniel Clyne be a good signing for Manchester United? Would a swap deal for Hernandez benefit Southampton?

Real Madrid star issues ‘come get me plea’ to Manchester United

Spanish reports claim Manchester United are to reopen their long-term interest in Real Madrid and Portuguese full-back Fabio Coentrao, and the Portuguese defender is keen on the move.

Coentrao has had another frustrating season so far with Los Blancos, making just seven league appearances, mainly due to fierce competition for places given Madrid’s squad depth.

Coentrao has spoken with Portuguese magazine O Jogo about the possibility of a move to United this summer and has admitted he would be “honoured” to play for the Red Devils.

“I already showed that interest in playing there. It’s one of the best clubs in the world, a club that I admire a lot. It would be an honour to play there,” he said.

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The 27-year-old defender is under contract until 2019 so wouldn’t come cheap but Louis Van Gaal will be looking to broaden his defensive options as United have been hit with injuries this season, keeping big-money signing Luke Shaw out of the side on numerous occasions.

Coentrao possesses the qualities to play as both a left-back and an attacking wing-back in a 3-5-2 formation – a system Van Gaal has used this year, with Ashley Young used in a similar role.

Would Fabio Coentrao be a good signing for Manchester United?

Manchester United star reveals Liverpool duo two of the best he’s played against

Manchester United defender Luke Shaw has revealed that Liverpool midfielders Jordan Henderson and Steven Gerrard are two of the best players he has played against in his career so far.

The 19-year-old left-back, who joined United from Southampton last summer, has told the club’s official website about some of the best stars he has come up against and has included the two Reds leaders in his selections.

Shaw believes Henderson is the fittest player he has faced and feels that Gerrard is the best passer that he has played against.

Henderson has played more Premier League games than any other Liverpool player this season and has stepped up his game in the heart of the Reds midfield, while Gerrard has registered an average pass success rate of 86%.

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The young defender did not feature in last week’s vital 2-1 win at Anfield as he is currently dealing with a hamstring problem. He has made 13 league appearances for the Red Devils since joining and is expected to be back for the home game against Aston Villa next weekend.

Shaw went on to add that former Liverpool hero, Luis Suarez is the best finisher he has come up against, while Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale is the fastest player the youngster has faced.

He also revealed that Stoke City’s Jon Walters is the toughest tackler he has played, while also giving credit to former teammate Jose Fonte for his tackling, saying “he loved a tackle.”

What have you made of Luke Shaw since his move to United? What do you make of his choices above?

FA Cup Preview and Prediction: Preston vs Manchester United

Preston vs Manchester United: FA Cup Fifth Round

Venue: Deepdale – Monday 16th February – 19:45

Match Odds: Preston 6/1 – Draw 100/30 – Manchester United 4/9

Manchester United continue their FA Cup run on Monday night with a visit down the M61 to Deepdale to take on Simon Grayson’s Preston North End side.

Louis Van Gaal’s men will be hoping for an easy ride and go into the game as clear favourites but the League One side are more than capable of an upset.

Preston’s home record in all competitions this season: Played 20 – Won 11 – Drawn 7 – Lost 2

Preston come into the fifth round off the back of two league wins on the bounce and will hope the FA Cup provides a good distraction from their push for promotion. Preston currently lay in fourth in League One and have the joint best defensive record in the league.

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Grayson has the advantage of having the Cup’s leading goalscorer in Paul Gallagher (5) and also has veteran striker Kevin Davies at his disposal, who has a total of 19 all-time FA Cup goals to his name.

Preston will provide a stern test for United and will hope to cause an upset in their first meeting with the Red Devils in 43 years.

Manchester United’s away record in all competitions: Played 15 – Won 4 – Drawn 8 – Lost 3

United have struggled at times to adapt to Van Gaal’s way of thinking with the 3-5-2 formation and that has now been dropped so we expect United to continue with the 4-3-1-2 system that has worked well recently.

The decision to deploy his captain, Wayne Rooney in a central midfield role has been a stroke of brilliance and United will benefit from the Englishman’s presence in the middle of the park once again on Monday as midfield general Michael Carrick is out. Luke Shaw returns from suspension and so Marcos Rojo could move back into the heart of United’s defence.

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Manchester United are unbeaten in their last six in all competitions and will be aiming to continue their run in the FA Cup with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.

These two sides last locked horns in a competitive fixture back in 1972 in an FA Cup fourth round match at Deepdale. United ran out 2-0 winners on that day thanks to two late Alan Gowling goals.

Preston’s last five in all competitions: D/L/W/W/W

Manchester United’s last five in all competitions: D/W/W/D/W

Key Stat: Manchester United are yet to concede in this season’s FA Cup. Will that record end on Monday night?

Key Player: Wayne Rooney – The Manchester United captain is fully aware of what the FA Cup means to the Red Devil’s faithful and he will be key on Monday night.

Score Prediction: Preston 1 – 1 Manchester United – A tricky tie for United that will result in another replay at Old Trafford.

Will we see the ‘Best England’ at the Under-21 European Championships?

The England Under-21s will be heading to the European Championships in the Czech Republic this summer but how strong will their squad be? Jamie Ives weighs up what sort of team we should see in June.

If Roy Hodgson is to be believed, it will be as strong as head coach, Gareth Southgate wants it to be. And with FA Chairman Greg Dyke’s ‘England DNA project’ well under way, there is added pressure to perform this summer.

The England Manager said in November that: “My policy is this: After Gareth Southgate has picked his squad, I will pick my squad”. This is a clear indication that should he wish, Southgate will be able to take senior players such as Jack Wilshere and Raheem Sterling to the Euros as they are eligible to play for the Under-21 squad.

Any player born on or after 1 January 1992 can play for the Under-21s in Czech Republic so players up to the age of 23 could feature for Southgate’s side.

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When speaking to the Mirror in December, Southgate went on record stating that: “If players haven’t been with us for the qualification campaign and are only being parachuted in five days before, well what about the work we have been doing?” And he has a point.

The current Under-21 teams consists of many players that will fall short of the ‘ideal team’ if everyone that is eligible travels to the competition. Though surely they have earned their place in the team by getting the team through qualifying without losing a match (W9 D1 L0)?

There will be a strong cases made that England should take the likes of Jack Wilshere, Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the championships if they are to have the best chance of winning. But in recent years, the players with senior caps tend to stay in the senior camp.

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Other European nations take their best players to any youth competition as it gives younger players the opportunity to experience the tough demands of tournament football before playing in a World Cup or European Championship.

Though that has not been a system used in England, so who will be on the plane to the Czech Republic in June?

For England to be successful at senior level it is pivotal that the younger players are allowed to develop, not only to gain experience at international level, but also to pick up that vital experience of playing in a major tournament. Especially if they have a squad with a much talent to choose from as the current crop.

In order for England to develop as a football nation, Southgate has to take the best available squad and he must be given time to work with them. A strong Under-21 side with a common agenda and understanding of what needs to be done will be overwhelming favorites to win this summer.

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Winning the Under-21 European Championship for the first time in 31 years would be a huge boost for the nation and could propel the senior team to further success in years to come. Much like the Germany Under-21s did in 2009 as their senior team then won the 2014 FIFA World Cup five years later.

This is arguably the best possible England Under-21 starting XI that Gareth Southgate could choose:

Goalkeeper: Jack Butland (Stoke City)

Defenders: Calum Chambers (Arsenal), John Stones (Everton), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Luke Shaw (Manchester United).

Midfielders: Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Tom Carroll (Tottenham – on loan at Swansea City), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Ross Barkley (Everton).

Striker: Harry Kane (Tottenham).

Is this England's best possible starting XI for the Under-21 European Championship? (Via Lineupbuilder.com)

Is this England’s best possible starting XI for the Under-21 European Championship? (Via Lineupbuilder.com) 

Who do you think deserves to start for the England Under-21s at this summer’s tournament?