Raphael Varane relishing Manchester United challenge
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West Ham United’s Declan Rice has sent an obvious transfer plea to Premier League giants Manchester United and Chelsea – by admitting he has got the ability to play higher up the pitch ‘in him’. Rice won the hearts of English fans over the summer with his formidable performances at Euro 2020; forming an inseparable partnership with Kalvin Phillips in the process.
The pair dominated the midfield as England reached their first international final since 1966, only to fall at the final hurdle of penalties in agonising heartbreak.
Yet this didn’t stop Rice’s stock increasing to levels he had never seen before.
His energy levels, reading of the game and physicality made it tough for anyone to break the Three Lions down in the tournament; which is a huge reason why England only conceded two goals in the tournament, and only one from open play.
Chelsea and Manchester United have been big admirers over the years, with the Blues being linked the most due to Rice’s friendship with their star Mason Mount.
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Although, with Mount, N’golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic all capable of playing in the role that Rice excels in, there isn’t a burning need to move across the capital to the European champions.
It is, however, no secret that United are desperate for a combative central-midfielder to take the defensive burden away from Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes.
The pair ran riot last weekend against northern rivals Leeds United in a 5-1 win, with Pogba registering four assists and Fernandes scoring a hat-trick.
And their attacking prowess could be bettered with Rice being their partner, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer attempts to bring the Premier League title back to Old Trafford for the first time in nine years.
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With Nemanja Matic leaning towards the latter end of his career, and Fred producing some admittedly inconsistent performances, there is only Scott McTominay who United see as a long-term asset in the defensive midfield region.
Rice could be the man to solve their problems – and has made it clear to potential suitors that he is capable of producing performances of the highest order in a ‘come and get me’ plea to the Champions League sides.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Rice admitted he is now more capable of venturing into the opponents’ half due to his comfort on the ball; something which would appeal greatly to United boss Solskjaer.
“Will we see more of it this season? Yeah, I think so,” the midfielder said.
“Like you said, doing stuff like that catches the eye and that’s what people want to see. Taking the game by the scruff of the neck and getting the ball, taking it forward and being progressive with it.
“I feel that I’ve got it in me to do it, it’s just picking my moments. I feel like this season definitely, if I see the chance to open up my legs into a bit of space to take the ball forward I’m definitely going to do it.
“I’ve had this conversation with the manager here and a few of his coaches. I don’t think I could play really high up, I don’t think that would suit me, but I feel like I could play more like an 8, like a box-to-box player.
“Wherever the manager wants me to play, whether that’s as just a holder or a No.8, box-to-box, you know I’m comfortable playing both.”
With United playing a high line, Rice has thrown his name into the hat to become their star man in the engine room, potentially emulating the talents that Roy Keane produced under Sir Alex Ferguson.
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