Manchester United coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is ready to strengthen his team with the signings of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire, at a cost of around £130m.
As part of the plan to transform the Red Devils defence, the Norwegian has picked these he two players as his top targets.
United’s success in luring the pair to Old Trafford will be a test of Ed Woodward’s determination to back Solskjaer’s summer overhaul.
Both Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp managed to convince their boards at Manchester City and Liverpool respectively to pay record fees for defensive reinforcements, which have paved the way to the success of both clubs over the past two seasons.
Now Solskjaer wants Woodward to take the same leap of faith with two players he believes will be pivotal to his rebuild.
City spent around £100m on Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy two summers ago, while Virgil van Dijk became the most expensive defender in history when Liverpool signed him from Southampton for £75m in January last year.
Walker has been fundamental to City’s back-to-back Premier League triumphs – and five domestic trophies during his time at the Etihad.
And Van Dijk has been the bedrock of Liverpool’s Champions League-winning side – named PFA Player of the Year and installed as favourite to win the Ballon d’Or.
Woodward is ready to invest heavily in United’s rear-guard – particularly after seeing Van Dijk’s impact on Klopp’s team.
There have been rueful looks in the direction of Anfield, with the feeling within United’s hierarchy that the Dutchman has turned out to be a bargain – despite his record fee.
They do not believe Van Dijk’s move from Southampton represented a watershed moment in terms of transfer fees for defenders – instead identifying the near-£50m City paid for Walker as the turning point.
Either way, both of those deals are having a significant influence on Solskjaer’s plans this summer.
A bid of around £35m – rising to £40m with add-ons – for Wan-Bissaka has been rejected by Crystal Palace, who are holding out for as much as £60m for England Under 21 international.
United are set to return with an improved bid of closer to £50m, which they will expect to be successful – making the right back the most expensive defender in their history.
And should they press ahead with interest in Maguire – due to their conviction Matthijs de Ligt is Barcelona-bound – that record will be shattered again.
Leicester value the centre back as high as £90m – although a bid of £80m would be difficult to turn down.
Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli would cost a similar amount.
City are also eager to sign Maguire as a replacement for the departed Vincent Kompany – but having baulked at Van Dijk’s fee, Leicester’s asking price may force Guardiola to consider other options.
Maguire – and De Ligt – serve as warnings over United’s approach to Wan-Bissaka.
United resisted making an official bid for Maguire last summer, believing his then £60-70m price tag was inflated on the back of an impressive World Cup.
Now they face having to pay even more.
Source: Evening Standard