Nemanja Matic looks set to reunite with Jose Mourinho at Manchester United in the coming days -but reports suggest that this was not initially meant to be the case.
The Serbian international is the subject of a £40m bid from Man United, and Chelsea are not standing in his way as they line up a replacement in the form of £35m Monaco midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko.
However, according to the Telegraph on Tuesday, Matic was Mourinho’s third-choice target to recruit and bolster his midfield.
The report suggests that Tottenham’s Eric Dier and Radja Nainggolan of Roma were the two in line ahead of the 28-year-old (with no mention of Fabinho, who has been linked in some other places) in what has so far been a relatively frustrating summer in getting deals over the line.
Dier, in particular, is pretty much a non-starter. The England international signed a new five-year contract last September and with chairman Daniel Levy reportedly demanding north of £50m (and that seems to be one of the more conservative estimates) and Tottenham flying high under Mauricio Pochettino, it would be highly unlikely to secure a deal for the 23-year-old.
Nainggolan, meanwhile, was heavily linked with a move to Chelsea last summer but with Mohamed Salah already having left the Serie A side, and Kostas Manolas and Leandro Paredes looking as of now to be following the Egyptian out the door, new Roma sporting director Monchi would be loath to lose another important player in the summer, particularly with a Champions League campaign coming up.
Which leaves Matic as the contingency plan. All going well, the move should be tied up before the end of the week and he will become Man United’s second signing of the transfer window after the £31m acquisition of defender Victor Lindelof earlier this month.
Attention will then surely return to the issues up front. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic on his way out of the club barring a change of heart from Mourinho, a replacement forward is needed. Man United thought they had secured that with Antoine Griezmann, only for the French international to change his mind and sign a new contract at Atlético Madrid. Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata is the current primary target, but that is being held up by the Spanish side’s €90m valuation of the player.