Everton right to call Manchester United transfer bluff over Jarrad Branthwaite as PSR hope emerges

-Credit: (Image: James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images.)
-Credit: (Image: James Baylis - AMA/Getty Images.)

Manchester United can huff and puff all they want but it will not change anything:

Everton hold the cards when it comes to Jarrad Branthwaite.

As the week has developed and the dust has settled on the club’s derisory opening bid to the Blues the noise, it seems, has grown louder. In most places you might look there is someone repeating that the Red Devils are willing to walk away unless Everton compromise on their value of the player.

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The problem they have in the red half of Manchester is a big one, however. And Branthwaite is one of few solutions. The club has endured more lows than highs since the end of the Sir Alex Ferguson era and the latest knight at the helm, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, is keen to end a generational gap of turbulence.

His club might have secured the FA Cup and with it a berth in Europe next season. Yet no-one should forget that came after a season in which the club finished eighth and with a negative goal difference. There are plenty who are desperate for the first transfer window of the INEOS reign to be a statement one. The early signs are worrying for them. A shambolic managerial review that saw rivals courted before the decision to stick with Erik ten Hag has not helped. Neither have delays in being able to get the admittedly top-class appointments above the boss in position to officially start the work to rebuild a fallen giant.

Yet a good window does remain a possibility for Man Utd and Branthwaite is their quickest route to it. The 21-year-old is everything every club should want. He is a towering presence at the back and a goal threat at the other end - don’t let the emotion of the messy finish against Liverpool make you forget that ruthless strike at Brighton. He reads the game well, will throw his body on the line when needed, has the pace to venture higher up the pitch and ability with both feet to seek out teammates from the deep. His maturity is an attribute best known to those of us who have had the privilege to watch him and, in my case, speak to him. He is a future contender for the England armband.

Branthwaite is the answer to so many questions at Old Trafford. He is also one of few solutions available. In the days after Everton made clear the opening bid of £35m with £8m of add-ons was unacceptable, the claims were that others were available. Well, two of them barely seem viable.

Jean-Clair Todibo plays for another INEOS club Nice and UEFA rules mean the two Europa-League-bound sides cannot do a deal with each other for the centre back. Leny Yoro meanwhile seems destined for Madrid. If that falls through then Man Utd will be poorly positioned in the fight for his signature.

As a result, if they want Branthwaite then it is them, not Everton, that need to get real. The magic number they need to reach is not clear. Maybe it is not so high as Everton truly value him, or could be reached through the chicanery of add-ons and clauses - Everton’s financial picture remains uncertain while the ownership question rumbles on. And it is true, Everton are one of many clubs that would see their Profit and Sustainability position vastly improved with a sale before the end of the month.

It is clear that United were seeking to ruthlessly exploit that vulnerability with their derisory opening offer. But that approach is not without its own risks - Arsenal have enquired about Amadou Onana and Aston Villa are in talks over Lewis Dobbin. There are some who believe the sale of just Dobbin could take Everton towards compliance with the rules. If it is close then Everton are building up substantial mitigation for any future argument through the Premier League’s handling of the situation, with grey areas in the league’s dispute with the Blues still unresolved.

Everton would love to keep hold of Branthwaite and so, no doubt, would the supporters who have watched his breakthrough with pride. The only way Manchester United should be able to end that relationship is by paying a proper price. Right now, they are the delusional ones - not Everton.