Getty Images

Would Saul make sense at Man United?

Leave a comment

As Manchester United prepares its roster construction for the future, one player that’s reportedly on the shortlist is Atletico Madrid central midfielder Saul Niguez.

Although originally from Elche, in southeast Spain, Saul has been on the books of Atletico Madrid since 2008 (other than a season on loan with Rayo Vallecano), making his first team debut in 2012 and growing from a scrawny midfielder into an international-calibre box-to-box star for both club and country. Per Diario AS, Man United has been interested in signing Saul before, and now it’s been revived. The report states, “The interest from Manchester is very real, and strong.”

[READ: Arsenal comes back to beat West Ham]

So, what kind of a player is Saul?

As mentioned before, he’s a sturdy, powerful box-to-box midfielder who can win headers defensively and knows how to play well in a Diego “Cholo” Simeone system. At the same time, he’s certainly not afraid to make a late run into the box. Last season he tied a career high with four goals in La Liga and also scored in the UEFA Champions League.

At 25-years old, he’s a hardened veteran player. But is he what Man United needs?

If you look at the current squad at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s disposal, he’s got quite a few No. 8’s, right? There’s Paul Pogba, Andreas Pereira, and Fred. You can argue Scott McTominay has at times played like an 8, as has Jesse Lingard on occasion. One might argue that what Man United really needs is a better No. 6, someone who can be a destroyer and cover a lot of ground, freeing up that side of the game so Pogba could feel more comfortable attacking.

If Man United were to sign Saul in January – or next summer – we could potentially see him line up in a midfield three, though he’d be center right with Pogba to his left. Behind the pair would be McTominay to clean up the messes.

On paper, it’s a decent midfield for sure, but it’s just one step on Man United’s path towards becoming a team that can challenge for the Premier League and Champions League.

Of course, this is all theoretical. Saul carries a $166 million transfer release clause, and for the player he is, considering he doesn’t score many goals and affects the game in little ways, it’s a lot to spend for a guy who isn’t a guarantee to improve his team enough to make it back to the Champions League.

But if Man United was able to negotiate a better transfer fee for Niguez, they could do worse than a talented midfielder from Atletico Madrid. The question then will be – is Saul a system player (only successful under Simeone), or can he find success in the Premier League too?

He’s earned it: Time to give Solskjaer permanent job

Getty Images

Minutes after his team suffered a brutal 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford to Paris Saint-Germain, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer uttered what could have been considered a throw-away line. “Mountains are there to be climbed.”

On Wednesday, Manchester United and theoretically climbed that mountain. And Solskjaer did too. The Norwegian has been an absolute revelation in his return to Man United as a coach, guiding Man United to a record of 14 wins in 17 games, with just the one defeat to PSG.

Solskjaer re-joined Man United from Molde on a short-term contract as an interim. But by overcoming PSG in the most sensational way possible close to his heart – a winner in second half stoppage time – Solskjaer showed that he deserves to have the interim tag removed.

Solskjaer has brought a new outlook and perspective to the club and it seems that all players have reacted positively to his arrival. Players aren’t afraid of repercussions from their manager for mistakes and with so many injuries, Solskjaer is even getting decent performances from the team’s youngsters. Tahith Chong played 10 minutes and 17-year-old Mason Greenwood made his first team debut with three minutes to go against PSG.

In his last two games, Solskjaer has delivered even when it seemed Man United was under serious pressure and on the verge of losing. Man United came back to beat Southampton and did the same against PSG.

Time and time again, Solskjaer has overcome expectations. With the squad looking very likely to finish in the top four and the fact that it’s made it into the last eight of the Champions League, there’s no reason to keep waiting.

Could Mauricio Pocchetino deliver these results with this squad? Perhaps. But Man United has the coach they’ve been looking for since Sir Alex Ferguson retired on the sidelines right now. It’s time to make it permanent.