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Altered values change targets for Solskjaer


Odion Ighalo

Odion Ighalo

Odion Ighalo


It's a sign of the times that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been looking at much more analysis videos than he usually would in the last three months, and thereby thinking about what his Manchester United might look like in future.

It's been one of the only ways to work - but may well work out. Managers rarely get such time to think about their team so deeply, and assess every minute detail of potential targets. For their part, United are cautious about "the optics" of overspending in the current situation, with the loan extension of striker Odion Ighalo until January 2021 looking to be a prudent move.

The flip side is that the old values are unlikely to apply. A relegated Aston Villa, for example, would have to compromise on Jack Grealish. It is a highly changed market, but in more ways than one.

No one is likely to have the budget United themselves could demand for Paul Pogba. That is one reason the French midfielder is set to stay, and there is a feeling it could affect Grealish's future.

That is another wider football effect of this crisis: it could drastically change the trajectory of players' careers. It won't be so easy to move.

More power has swung back to the clubs. Pogba could well spend his prime at United, in a way he might not have wanted.

It also reflects how Solskjaer's side are for the moment a Bruno Fernandes injury from a fairly barren midfield. So, for the moment, Grealish remains in United's band of "highest priority" targets, along with Jadon Sancho.

Almost everyone thinks the England forward will leave Borussia Dortmund in the next window. United would, in the words of one source, "do anything to get him".

He currently looks a likelier signing than Grealish, along with Swansea City's Joe Rodon. The young centre-half may mitigate the need to sign either RB Leipzig's Dayot Upamecano or Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly.

They latter two currently remain on United's top-priority group. The club work on the basis of five such groups, with players obviously moving up and down as circumstances change. Wolves' Raul Jimenez and West Ham United's Declan Rice are at the moment in the lower-priority groups. That was also true of Bruno Fernandes for much of the last year, but the club went for him, and it's so far worked out very well.

More intriguing is one name suddenly high up in priority, and who the analytics department have been working on. That is Raheem Sterling.

Nobody sees the player as any way likely to go to United, but some do feel it is a reflection of a relative uncertainty around his future if Manchester City's Champions League ban is upheld. If he comes available, United will go for him.

As to who might leave United to allow some of this, Jesse Lingard was thought to be tempted by a move to Serie A. Like his manager and everyone else, mind, Lingard has had a lot to time to think about the future.

That could now look a bit different, not least for the Manchester United first XI.