Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish was linked with a move to Old Trafford this past summer.
The 25-year old had a standout campaign for Villa in the Premier League last year, scoring eight times and setting up six more. He’s followed that up with a blistering start to this season, scoring three and assisting three more in just five league appearances.
A move to Manchester United never materialised, the Red Devils opting to sign Donny Van de Beek from Ajax instead. According to MEN, United were put off by Villa’s £80 million price tag and had concerns over where he would fit in the side.
Grealish plays predominantly as an attacking midfielder operating from the left side. A wide playmaker, he tends to hold on to the ball and analyse the situation around him before attempting to make things happen.
This side of the pitch was mainly occupied for Manchester United by Marcus Rashford last season. Rashford has however shown his versatility in the past and in recent weeks as well, his blistering form propelling the Red Devils back into form.
In recent weeks Rashford has played as a lone no. 9 and as a right-sided striker in a two. This positional flexibility eliminates the concerns over where Grealish would fit in at United.
Had the move materialised, Grealish would have been an excellent playmaker off the left, with Rashford moving over to the right to operate as a wide striker. This would also mean United deploying multiple final third playmakers, with Bruno Fernandes already excelling in the no. 10 role.
The combination of skill and movement this entails could prove deadly, with Grealish and Fernandes pulling the strings whilst the other more pacy forwards exploit spaces in behind.
Grealish also possesses something the other United forwards lack, gravity. The Villa captain attracts attention, and lots of it. Last season he broke the record for most fouls won by a Premier League player since records began.
He holds on to the ball very well, and is excellent at using his body to draw contact from defenders. This, coupled with his mesmerising skill and excellent vision, makes him an excellent fit for United.
The extra attention Grealish attracts would create extra avenues for Manchester United to exploit, creating overloads on the left and freeing up space to run into on the other side.
There is however the problem of the price tag, with Villa’s £80 million valuation seemingly putting United off. However, with the Sancho deal failing to materialise, a deal for Grealish should have been the next best thing.
He’s young, English, extremely talented, and would have brought extra quality to the Mancunian side. With the acquisition of Donny van de Beek, Facundo Pellistri and Amad Diallo however, United have effectively shut the door on any new moves for playmakers.
Jack Grealish to Manchester United just seemed right, but it also seems like it was never meant to be.