José Mourinho made it clear rather early on that he would be looking to sign at least one midfielder this summer. “We need to sign a midfield player because we are going to lose Michael Carrick,” the Manchester United boss said as long ago as February, setting the gossip column alight with speculation and conjecture over potential targets.
The Old Trafford side acted quickly to agree on a £52million fee with Shakhtar Donetsk for Brazilian midfielder Fred. That deal still hasn’t been rubber-stamped, but the process has been slowed with the player currently at the World Cup. Everything should be signed and sealed in the not so distant future.
But going on the speculation that continues to swirl, Mourinho might not be satisfied with just one midfield addition this summer. Sergej Milinković-Savić is one name which has consistently been linked with a move to Old Trafford, although Lazio might have slapped on a hefty enough price tag to scare off potential suitors. Jean Michael-Seri, Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Yaya Touré’s have also been mentioned.
Jack Wilshere is the latest player to have cropped up in the gossip column, though. The 26-year-old will be a free agent this summer after announcing his intention to leave Arsenal on Wednesday after discussions with new manager Unai Emery. Now, according to reports, Manchester United could step in.
A number of bizarre rumours concerning Mourinho and his team have already been raised this summer. There was the aforementioned interest in Touré’, not to mention reported moves for West Ham’s Marko Arnautović and Joe Hart. But Wilshere would be the strangest one of all, should it come to pass.
After all, Wilshere isn’t leaving Arsenal to make the jump up. He might have been a first-team figure last season, but that was preceded by struggles that even saw him go on loan to Bournemouth. The player himself clarified in the statement posted to his social media channels that he is leaving the Emirates Stadium to look for more game time.
“Following my meeting with the new manager I was made aware that although the reduced contract offer remained, it was made clear to me that my playing time would be significantly reduced should I decide to stay,” the midfielder wrote, confirming what had been reporting in the press for weeks.
But is Old Trafford the place for Wilshere to get his career back on track? With Fred signed, it seems likely that Mourinho will favour a midfield unit consisting of the Brazilian alongside Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba.
In those three, Man Utd will have a balance in the centre of the pitch. However, they will need depth, with Carrick retired and Ander Herrera linked with a departure from the club, and so this is where Mourinho might envisage Wilshere coming in.
From the 26-year-old’s perspective, a move to Manchester United would surely appeal. By making that switch, Wilshere would fall upwards, leaving Arsenal after their worst ever Premier League season to join the second best team in the country. He’d be back in the Champions League, back challenging for silverware.
But he’d be doing so as a peripheral figure, which is what he wanted to avoid at Arsenal in the first place. With Wilshere now entering his peak years, he needs to make the most of this opportunity to find a fresh start, to make a club his own, and he probably wouldn’t be given that opportunity at Manchester United, no matter how tempting their offer may be.
What Wilshere brings on the pitch cannot always be quantified in numbers and figures. It’s his energy and drive that makes him the player he is, but nonetheless, his statistics for Arsenal last season were relatively impressive. He made an average of 53 accurate passes per 90 minutes, also making an average of 15.16 forward passes per 90 minutes as well.
His expected goal contribution per 90 minutes value of 0.34 is also fairly impressive for a central midfielder of his mould and it's 0.26 high than Herrera's, too. Wilshere would certainly give Manchester United an option off the bench and the case for his signing would appear to be stronger than that of Touré’s, who recently said he would play for the Old Trafford for £1 a week.
Herrera offers many of the same things Wilshere does, though, and he is already on Man Utd’s books. It might the case that they wish to collect a healthy transfer fee from Athletic Bilbao, who are interested, for the midfielder before signing Wilshere on a free transfer, but is that really what Mourinho needs in order to catch Manchester City at the top of the Premier League table next season?