With injuries to Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia, Manchester United are reportedly on the cusp of picking up some left-back cover in the form of Chelsea’s Marc Cucurella, who's playing time with the Blues under Pochettino has been severely limited in competitive games so far.
It’s a startling fall from grace for the Spanish international that Chelsea are willing to loan him out, having signed for the West London club from Brighton for a startling £55m just twelve months ago.
But the past year has been full of instability and chaos at Stamford Bridge, and Cucurella has been in many ways the player that much of the blame has fallen upon. Cucurella is viewed by the Chelsea faithful as an example of where splashing cash remorselessly can end up with you getting your fingers burned.
Cucurella’s first appearance in a Chelsea shirt was full of promise, but ever since his debut, it’s been a downhill slide in terms of performances. Criticised heavily for a lack of adventurousness in his game, Cucurella seemed to shrink further and further into himself as the pressure mounted from the fanbase, until he looked a shadow of the player that he had been at Brighton.
With Ben Chilwell firmly first choice and Ian Maatsen seemingly usurping Cucurella in the pecking order – it is the former Coventry loanee that Pochettino has turned to off the bench in the opening few Premier League games – a fresh start might be exactly what the Spaniard needs in order to turn around a bad spell in his career.
And the stars might have aligned for that to happen at Old Trafford, with Cucurella reportedly Erik ten Hag’s first choice to provide cover for their left-back injury crisis.
Marc Cucurella Man Utd transfer – Latest update
David Ornstein and Fabrizio Romano both briefed yesterday that United had submitted a proposal for a loan deal to Chelsea. The Blues hierarchy are happy to sanction a loan for Cucurella, considering he is not in Pochettino’s plans, with talks ongoing.
Reports suggest that Chelsea initially wanted a £7m loan fee from United in order to loan them Cucurella, whilst United were originally hopeful of cutting a deal at around the £2m mark. Those figures may be some way apart, but there is a secondary plot at play here that might change the picture, and that comes in the form of the length of the loan.
Later updates have informed us that a fee closer to £3m could be agreed on, on the conditions that this is only a half-season loan deal, used to provide temporary cover to Manchester United, with the defender returning to Chelsea in January – where you’d imagine the club will then look for a new permanent home for the player.
The deal offers something key to both clubs – United would get a Premier League proven player ready to step in for the next few months as both Shaw and Malacia work back to full fitness, whilst Chelsea would allow the player to rebuild his reputation and potentially his value away from Stamford Bridge, which might allow them to recoup more of their initial outlay on Cucurella when he is eventually sold.
With both clubs keen to do business, it feels like this is a deal that will get over the line in the final few days of the window, and that Cucurella will be a Manchester United player come September.
United have reportedly agreed personal terms in principle with the player, and he has given them the all-clear to proceed with negotiations, highlighting his desire for a fresh start and a clean slate at a new Premier League club. As the clubs eventually reach a compromise, this one should move quickly.
Why do United want Cucurella?
Given the noise and furore around his time at Chelsea, there have been plenty of questions asked on social media as to why Manchester United think he can be good enough to play for a team who want to challenge at the sharp end of the Premier League this season.
But whilst last year was an unmitigated disaster for Cucurella, it has to be put in the context of the shambles that was Chelsea Football Club last season. The club went through four managers including interims – Thomas Tuchel, Graham Potter, Bruno Saltor and Frank Lampard – and collapsed to their lowest league finish in the Premier League era.
Cucurella became a scapegoat for the disaster of a season. His performances were comfortably below par, granted, but he was hardly the only Chelsea player who failed to live up to expectations across the course of the campaign.
United believe that they can coax back out the player who shone for both Brighton and Getafe by utilising a system that suits his strengths. Cucurella, a product of Barcelona’s La Masia academy, is exceptionally comfortable in possession and likes to recycle the ball rather than taking lots of risks.
He’s not a particularly heavy crosser, so United would have to adapt from the system that they used with Luke Shaw, perhaps tilting the pitch the opposite way to get Diogo Dalot further forward on the right hand side. With Mason Mount comfortable drifting wide, using Cucurella to tuck inside into the midfield might just get more out of him than what was seen at Stamford Bridge.
Ten Hag likes his teams to dominate the ball, recycling and probing through possession-based dominance, which Cucurella would be able to provide from that left-back spot. Cucurella’s long switch passing is also excellent, and might tie in nicely to those forays forward that Dalot is so capable of.
There remain legitimate questions marks over his defensive stability – Cucurella has been used further forward for both the Spanish national team and at Getafe – but his ability on the ball has rarely been in doubt.
Ten Hag’s ability to coax the best out of players in a system that suits them has been questioned this year, but if he could return Cucurella to the player we saw at Brighton, and who merited that big-money move to Chelsea, then this deal could end up looking like a very smart one indeed.