Man United leading race to sign Burnley's Michael Keane as Luke Shaw risks Old Trafford limbo
Manchester United are confident of winning the race to sign Michael Keane with the Burnley centre-half setting his sights on a return to Old Trafford.
But another England defender, Luke Shaw, risks being stuck in limbo at United after suffering ankle ligament damage that is likely to force him to miss the start of next season.
Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Everton are all interested in Keane but United have moved into pole position to sign the 24-year-old 2½ years after he was sold to Burnley for £2 million by Louis van Gaal, Jose Mourinho’s predecessor as manager.
Mourinho has made clear privately that he would never have sold Keane, one of numerous players the United manager is puzzled Van Gaal allowed to leave, and the prospect of returning to the club is understood to appeal greatly to the £30 million rated defender.
United negotiated a clause when Keane left Turf Moor in January 2015 that entitles them to 25 per cent of any sell-on, which would effectively translate as a discount on any transfer fee, even if it would be galling to have to pay out a substantial sum for a player who was on their books not long ago.
If United bring Keane back, he would become the second academy graduate re-signed by the club in 12 months following midfielder Paul Pogba’s £89 million world record return last summer, four years after leaving for Juventus. Mourinho is thought to have explored the possibility of re-signing Javier Hernandez, the Mexico striker sold to Bayer Leverkusen by Van Gaal for £7.3 million in 2015.
With England defender Chris Smalling facing an uncertain future at Old Trafford, Mourinho could be in the market for a second centre-half this summer. Raphael Varane, of Real Madrid, and Jose Gimenez, of Atletico Madrid, are two players who have been frequently linked with the club.
Mourinho is keen to bolster his defence but where Shaw figures in his plans has been further clouded by the left back’s latest injury set-back.
United were thought to be willing to listens to offers for Shaw this summer but the 21-year-old’s injury against Swansea City nine days ago is now likely to act as a deterrent to potential suitors.
But, in the event Shaw stays at United, he risks losing more ground under Mourinho given that he is poised to miss all of pre-season and will face a fresh fight to force his way back into the manager’s thinking.
Mourinho has publicly criticised Shaw’s professionalism as well as his footballing intelligence this season and the last thing the player needed as he battled to regain his form and fitness was another lengthy spell on the sidelines.
Shaw missed most of last season after suffering a double leg fracture against PSV Eindhoven in September 2015 and has endured a chastening campaign under Mourinho.
He was first criticised publicly by Mourinho last September after his positioning was questioned for Watford’s second goal in a 3-1 defeat, although it subsequently emerged that the player had picked up an injury before then that ended up ruling him out for the next three weeks. There was more criticism after Shaw missed the 3-1 win at Swansea in November and last month Mourinho questioned the player’s commitment, focus and ambition.
That scathing public attack prompted Shaw to request face-to-face talks with Mourinho, after which the manager included him in the squad to play Everton. But after Shaw came on as a substitute to win a penalty in a 1-1 draw, Mourinho claimed he had been the “brain” behind the performance after revealing how he had to offer constant instruction to the left back.
When Shaw was struck down by injury just nine minutes into last month’s game against Swansea, Mourinho rather sarcastically suggested afterwards that he was “expecting a very big injury” for a player to leave the pitch so early.