Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku have complicated Manchester United’s summer transfer plan. Two players manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was expecting to have in his squad next season are keen to leave Old Trafford. Pogba has declared his intention to find a “new challenge” amid interest from Real Madrid and Juventus, while Lukaku would be open to joining Antonio Conte at Inter Milan if the opportunity presents itself.
Sources have told ESPN FC that United do not want to sell Pogba, who has three years left on his contract and would command at least a £120 million transfer fee, and it would take a hefty bid of around £80 million from Inter to sign Lukaku.
But we also know that, according to ESPN FC’s Mark Ogden, Solskjaer has been given just £100 million to strengthen his Manchester United squad this summer – about £70m has already been spent on Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James — with further spending likely to be dependent on money raised by player sales. If — and it is a big if — United sold both want-away stars this summer, Solskjaer could find himself with an extra £200 million to reshape his squad. So let’s play Director of Football (as if United had one of those) and look at which players Solskjaer could splash the cash to get Manchester United back on track.
Sources have told ESPN FC that United would explore the possibility of signing Eriksen if Pogba forced a move away. Eriksen, who has proven himself in the Premier League, has one year left on his contract, has made it clear he is open to leaving Tottenham this summer and, crucially, has the skillset to replace Pogba’s creativity in midfield. The Frenchman scored 16 goals in all competitions last season and contributed nine assists in the league. His sale would cover the cost of Eriksen, who has also been linked with Real Madrid, but it would mean negotiating with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy, which is never an easy process.
United are pursuing Bruno Fernandes regardless of what happens with Pogba and sources have told ESPN FC that informal talks have already taken place in London. Last season, the Portugal international scored 31 times in 50 games for Sporting Lisbon — numbers that will impress Solskjaer as he looks to add more goals from midfield. Sporting Lisbon are resigned to losing the 24-year-old this summer and, after Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool all distanced themselves from a move, United would be in pole position if they step up their interest.
Lukaku wants to leave United because of fears he has slipped behind Marcus Rashford in the pecking order under Solskjaer. The manager has preferred Rashford as his central striker, using the 21-year-old’s pace to stretch opposition defences. Lukaku is more static but he has still been effective at Old Trafford, scoring 42 goals in 96 games. His goals would need to be replaced if Inter stump up the cash to buy him. The best candidate? Harry Kane. He has averaged nearly 25 league goals a season since 2014-15 and would be a dream signing for Solskjaer and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward. It would be near impossible to get the England captain out of Tottenham, but he is the type of signing United should be aiming for if they want start challenging for the Premier League title and the Champions League.
United have followed Paulo Dybala since his Palermo days and registered tentative interest when he moved to Juventus in 2015. Sources have told ESPN FC that the Italian champions are open to the possibility of cashing in on the Argentinian this summer, although United’s recruitment department are split on whether or not to pursue the player. The 25-year-old managed just five league goals alongside Cristiano Ronaldo last season, but without the Portuguese superstar the year before Dybala scored 22 in 33 league games. He can play up front or just behind a striker, offering Solskjaer a different option and some much needed creativity in and around the penalty area.
The winger is busy at the Africa Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast, but sources have told ESPN FC that after the competition is over there is an expectation he will leave Lille. Nicolas Pepe is not a direct replacement for Pogba or Lukaku but he can play on the right wing, a problem position at United since Louis van Gaal was in charge from 2014-16. United will face stiff competition from across Europe if they want to sign the 24-year-old but, as a goalscoring winger with pace, he is the type of player Solskjaer likes.