Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. The two defensive gifts that Sir Alex Ferguson bestowed to Manchester United to secure the club’s solidity after he had gone. But alas, instead these are the two words that have most come to symbolise United’s decline since Fergie’s departure.
Smalling and Jones have become bywords for calamity, comedy, embarrassment and an irresolvable lack of technical prowess at Old Trafford – the kind that were unheard of under Fergie’s watch. And now, Jose Mourinho has evidently decided he doesn’t want them under his watch either.
Smalling and Jones have both had their moments in a United shirt – many of Jones’s have been this season – but this won’t stop many Red Devils fans rejoicing at the news that Mourinho is set to get rid of them.
The Mirror reports that the gaffer formerly known as the Special One will attempt to offload his two hapless English centre-backs as part of a “major defensive revamp” this summer.
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Mourinho has “misgivings” about both players and has told United chiefs to emulate Manchester City and Liverpool by “spending big at the back”. The two expensive defenders in his sights are reportedly Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane and Leicester City’s Harry Maguire.
It’s worth pointing out at this point that Man Utd have the Premier League’s best defensive record this season, but you won’t see Smalling or Jones getting any credit for that.
Bale wants to stay at Real Madrid
Another man who appears increasingly unlikely to be at Old Trafford next season is Gareth Bale.
With the Welshman forcing his way back into Real Madrid’s starting line-up in recent weeks, his agent has poured cold water on speculation linking him with a move to United by insisting he “loves it” at the Bernabeu and has no desire to leave (Manchester Evening News).
Meanwhile, Arsenal and Liverpool – whose transfer targets appear to be completely identical these days – are now reportedly competing to sign the Schalke midfielder Max Meyer.
The Star says the versatile 22-year-old, who is out of contract at the end of the season, is Arsene Wenger’s “main summer transfer target” and is also being coveted by his compatriot Jurgen Klopp. However, with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich also keen, you don’t rate their chances.
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Liverpool could also pay “up to £50m” for the Leicester midfielder Wilfried Ndidi, according to the Mirror – citing the very reliable Nigerian publication The New Telegraph. Reds manager Klopp apparently “admires Ndidi’s physical approach” and is set to swoop for the 21-year-old Fox this summer.
Elsewhere, Borussia Dortmund will launch a permanent bid to sign on-loan Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi after being impressed with the Belgian’s start to life in Germany (Standard), Newcastle have an option to sign their own-loan Slovakian goalkeeper Martin Dubravka for less than £4m in the summer (Chronicle) and John Terry is waiting to see if Aston Villa get promoted before committing his future to the Midlands club (Telegraph). He’ll probably have loads of other offers after leading England to World Cup glory.