7 holding midfielders Man Utd are linked with and could sign in January transfer window

By Tom Blow

Several teams, most notably Liverpool during their 5-0 triumph at Old Trafford, have cut through Manchester United's midfield with ease this season.

Many supporters have lost confidence with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his preferred holding midfield pairing of Fred and Scott McTominay.

The Norwegian doesn't seem to trust Nemanja Matic or Donny van de Beek in that position, while Paul Pogba's Premier League career appears to be coming towards an end.

"We still haven’t got that natural holding initial player who can get around the park," claimed former United midfielder Paul Ince last month. Fresh talent is clearly needed.

Here, Mirror Football suggests seven holding midfielders the Red Devils could sign in January - including a current England star.

Who is the best holding midfielder in the Premier League? Let us know in he comments below!

Marcelo Brozovic

Marcelo Brozovic's Inter Milan contract expires in June (Getty Images)

Reports earlier this month suggest United are considering a move for Inter Milan ace Brozovic, whose current deal expires in June.

The 29-year-old has an impressive CV - playing 33 league games to help Inter win Serie A last term - and offers value for money due to his contract situation.

Brozovic also has 70 senior caps for Croatia, starting the World Cup final in 2018, although United may want a younger player.

And the Red Devils could face competition for his signature, with Bayern Munich, Newcastle, Chelsea and Tottenham also reportedly interested.

"There is very little that has been said or written about him," said former Dinamo Zagreb coach Nenad Bjelica in 2019, "but he is among top three midfielders in the world."

Wilfred Ndidi

Wilfred Ndidi has attracted many admirers thanks to his performances for Leicester (Getty Images)

Another player United have been linked with in recent weeks is Leicester star Ndidi, who certainly won't come cheap as he's contracted until June 2024.

The 24-year-old has become a top player since he joined the Foxes in January 2017, making 152 Premier League appearances and picking up 43 senior caps for Nigeria.

Ndidi doesn't offer much going forward but will give Solskjaer's team more steel in the middle of the park - something United's defence desperately needs.

"There’s not many [holding midfielders] better than him in the Premier League and probably in Europe," said former Premier League player Trevor Sinclair in March.

Ndidi's manager Brendan Rodgers - who's been tipped to replace Solskjaer at Old Trafford - said in 2019: "He is an incredible player.

"The offensive players get the credit but he does the dirty work. He has this brain for the game, where he can smell danger and always finds himself there.

"The timing of his challenge is very good and he's up there with the top players at winning the ball back. When you play a pressing game, you need someone like Wilf."

Declan Rice

Declan Rice has been tipped to make a £100million move in the near future (Getty Images)

United's dream signing. Rice is a £100million player and West Ham will not be interested in selling him in January as they push for Champions League qualification.

But money talks. The 22-year-old has been superb since the start of the 2018-19 campaign and is now starting to add goals to his game, scoring twice in the Europa League this term.

Rice is becoming a genuine box-to-box midfielder - reminiscent of a young Roy Keane - and will be the driving force behind his club and country for years to come.

"I think Declan Rice is the best player in the Premier League," former England manager Glenn Hoddle told talkSPORT on Thursday morning. "He's going to get better and better."

Hoddle's comments were strong but still a measure of how good he currently is and can become. Signing Rice would be a huge statement of intent from United.

"I think Declan’s improved as much as any player over the last one or two seasons," said Keane in September. “I think he’s way ahead of me when I was 22.

“I think the next step will come when he’s playing at a higher level, the Champions League, competing for trophies... there's a lot more to come from him."

Ruben Neves

Ruben Neves was linked with a move to Manchester United last summer (Bradley Collyer/PA Wire)

Since signing for Wolves in the summer of 2017, Neves has consistently shown his talent both domestically and in Europe - making 188 appearances in all competitions to date.

The 24-year-old also has an eye for goal - scoring the odd stunner now and again - and is likely to be a lot cheaper than some of the other names on this list.

Some of Neves' stats are alarming, though. The midfielder has a 43 per cent duel success rate this season - only marginally better than Fred's record (40.4 per cent).

The Portugal international has also been dribbled past 23 times - another record similar to Fred's (26). Neves has still got plenty of admirers, however.

"He's a terrific player," said Jamie Redknapp in July 2020. "He can defend he can attack, he's so talented... I think he's going right to the top of the game, it's effortless for him."

Boubacar Kamara

Boubacar Kamara has represented France at U21 level (Marc Atkins - FIFA)

United are reportedly considering a move for Kamara, who's beginning to make a name for himself at Marseille and is out of contract in June.

The 21-year-old, who can play as either a holding midfielder or centre-back, has already played 100 Ligue 1 games and represented France at U21 level.

Expecting Kamara to come in and hit the ground running in January - with no international or Premier League experience - is asking a lot, yet he'd still be a smart signing for the future.

"This kid is a phenomenon," said former Marseille defender Rolando. "He is full of qualities and, above all, he works, he listens. It is out of the ordinary."

If United do make a move for Kamara, it's believed they could face stiff competition from Arsenal and Sevilla.

Franck Kessie

Franck Kessie's AC Milan contract expires in June (AFP via Getty Images)

United have been linked with AC Milan star Kessie - who is out of contract in June and has reportedly attracted interest from Tottenham and Arsenal - for a while.

The 24-year-old has made 196 appearances for Milan since joining the club from Atalanta in the summer of 2017 and has an eye for goal, scoring 13 in Serie A last term.

Kessie may be reluctant to leave Italy in January as Milan have a great chance of winning the title this season, although he wouldn't command a big fee if persuaded.

"I want Kessie in my team," said former Milan striker Antonio Cassano in March. "He scores, he assists, he has personality, he has quality, he doesn’t lose the ball, he is intelligent.

"He reminds me of the Yaya Toure of the best times. He is a different player, but in terms of impact. He is holding Milan’s midfield alone."

Frenkie de Jong

Frenkie de Jong is reportedly available for transfer (Getty Images)

Perhaps the most audacious move of them all, Barcelona ace Frenkie de Jong would be a huge statement of intent if the United hierarchy could lure to him to Old Trafford.

The 24-year-old is one of the most promising young midfielders in Europe, playing an instrumental role in Ajax's famous run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018-19.

Reports suggest cash-strapped Barcelona, who signed De Jong two-and-a-half years ago, are willing to sell him for £75m to raise some much needed funds.

Manchester City are believed to be the favourites for his signature, although it's not too late for their local rivals to swoop in and improve their midfield.

Who do you think Manchester United should sign in January? Have your say!

Van de Beek's troubles at Old Trafford may deter De Jong, as his old Ajax team-mate has made just four Premier League starts since joining the club in October 2020.

Even so, it may still be worth United making a cheeky offer. "[Lionel] Messi told Frenkie that he is a fantastic player," revealed former Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman in May.

"Messi believes that Frenkie can reach a much higher level. He finds him a very intelligent player."


What is inkl?

Important stories

See news based on value, not advertising potential. Get the latest news from around the world.

Trusted newsrooms

We bring you reliable news from the world’s most experienced journalists in the most trusted newsrooms.

Ad-free reading

Read without interruptions, distractions or intrusions of privacy.