We’re only a few days into June, but the Manchester United rumour mill is in overdrive.
Jadon Sancho is old news. In truth, any hope – and one would suspect it was only ever slim at best – United had of signing the Borussia Dortmund winger died with their failure to secure Champions League football for next season.
There are plenty of other names doing the rounds, too. The Kalidou Koulibaly speculation refuses to go away, Bruno Fernandes has often been mentioned while there are wildly dubious rumours involving hugely coveted names such as João Félix and Matthijs de Ligt.
More plausible, though, is United’s link to Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot.
The 24-year-old’s career at the Parc des Princes is dead in the water. Once tipped for big things at Les Parisiens, Rabiot has not featured for the first-team since December following a falling out with head coach Thomas Tuchel.
With his contract due to expire at the end of the month, he’s actively looking for new employers. United may oblige. According to TF1, the Red Devils have offered him a deal worth £170,000-a-week.
There are a lot of positives to Rabiot. Firstly, while Sancho, Félix and De Ligt all have eye-popping price-tags, he would come for ‘free’ (although signing-on fees and wages have rendered that term laughable in modern football).
Secondly, he is a talented, versatile midfielder, one who is supremely confident in possession and who has the ability to control the tempo of games. He has an educated touch, impressive balance, can ride challenges and can spot a line-breaking pass.
What’s the problem, then?
Although Rabiot fired his outspoken mother and agent, Veronique, he is a player who poses a significant threat to an already fragile dressing room at Old Trafford.
Everywhere you look, there are unsettled players under Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s watch. Paul Pogba was lambasted by his own fans on the final day of the season and is now linked with a return to Juventus. Anthony Martial, a £59million player, spent much of the latter part of the season on the bench while Romelu Lukaku, a player signed for £75million just two years ago, is said to be angling for a move to Inter.
Alexis Sánchez has been nothing but professional during a miserable 18 months at the club, but the Chilean’s arrival last January has had a negative impact on how United are perceived.
The 29-year-old’s astronomical salary has made a mockery of the club’s structure, which explains why Marcus Rashford – a player yet to reach 15 goals in a season – is in line for a bumper new contract worth £300,000-a-week.
Offering £170,000-a-week to a player who has spent the last six months training with PSG’s reserves for falling out with the manager doesn’t exactly send out the right message, nor does it signal a much-needed departure from the hairbrained transfer strategy that has repeatedly failed to strengthen the team over the last six years.
It does not align with what seemed to be a refreshing new approach from United. A dismal end to the season not only cost them Champions League qualification; it also forced them to rethink their place in the global game.
Quite simply, ambitious young footballers will not gravitate towards United like they would with Manchester City and Liverpool, both of whom offer exciting, attractive projects under two of the game’s most revered tacticians, one who has just won the English treble and one who has just conquered Europe.
But transfer rumours from last month seemed to signal a shift in United’s thinking. Several reliable outlets reported concrete interest in Swansea City’s 21-year-old winger Daniel James, while there was clear long-term thinking behind targeting Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Crystal Palace’s rising star right-back.
Rabiot started attracting drama long before he turned professional, too. In 2013, he sensationally left Manchester City’s youth academy after just six months. His mother claimed it was due to City’s ‘treatment’ of him.
He signed for PSG but soon joined Toulouse on loan in search of regular starting opportunities. He has developed a reputation for turning up late for training and team meetings, the latter causing his fall-out with Tuchel.
Kylian Mbappé also turned up late for that team meeting. However, the 20-year-old superstar accepted his punishment – he was benched for the Ligue 1 clash with Marseille – and proceeded to finish the season with 39 goals in 43 appearances as PSG reclaimed their league and Coupe de France titles.
Rabiot, however, refused to sign a new contract and insisted that his future lay elsewhere. He ended the season as Les Parisiens’ pariah.
While it’s impossible to tell how a player will fare in new surroundings, the Frenchman’s career thus far does not chime with Solskjær’s comments from a few weeks back.
“You have to have that value system,” the Norwegian told the club’s official website. “A certain kind of attitude about you to make a Manchester United player.
“That’s the way it’s been and in our culture. You have to have that work ethic and we’re scouting the market trying to find the right ones.”
Rabiot, though talented he may be, is not the player United need right now.