José Mourinho’s reservations about the Manchester United defence could lead to a transfer battle with Manchester City, according to the Times.
The club have already signed 22-year-old defender Eric Bailly from Villarreal, but Mourinho has already stated that he is unsure whether the £30m acquisition is currently ready for Premier League football.
That would leave only Chris Smalling, Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo as Mourinho’s central options (assuming Daley Blind will be used in a more natural position or sold) for the coming season. Rojo, as per multiple reports, is likely to be sold, and Jones’ recent injury record has been less than stellar.
To that end, the report states that this turn of events may lead to Mourinho reigniting his interest in the 22-year-old England international.
The new Manchester United manager is a longtime fan of Stones – he tried in vain to prise the highly-rated youngster away from Everton last summer when he was still at Chelsea. A final bid of around £38m was ultimately knocked back by the Toffees.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has made Stones one of his top priorities this summer. The plan is to partner him with Italian international Leonardo Bonucci in a new-look defence at the Etihad.
Everton have been holding out for £50m from whoever decides they want him badly enough, but with Stones already already telling the club he wants to leave, it seems almost certain that he will be departing Goodison Park this summer.
However, whether that will be to Manchester United or City is a different matter altogether. Mourinho is likely to assess his squad during the club’s pre-season trip to China. Though the manager indicated that the fourth major signing (Paul Pogba) would be the club’s last major priority, if he is sufficiently worried about the defence, it may lead to the club’s re-entry into the transfer market.
If that also happens to meant that they derail Guardiola’s plans in the process, then Mourinho would surely consider that an added bonus.
However, Manchester City must surely still be considered favourites to land the player at this time.