The Portugese manager had enlisted Newcastle United’s Jamaal Lascelles as his latest January transfer targets before getting sacked, as per reports
Former Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho had, during his latter years in the hot seat, made it a point to repeat to anyone who was willing to listen that he wanted to strengthen his defensive options, which came to a head last summer, when the Red Devils were linked to the likes of Leicester’s Harry Maguire, Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld and Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin.
However, much to Mourinho’s chagrin, the club’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward decided that the options available in the existing squad were good enough, or at least as good as the aforementioned names, and opted not to splash the cash, which saw Mourinho endure many a struggle defensively during the first half of the campaign. All that meant that heading into the January transfer window, the former Chelsea boss was keen on bringing in an experienced centre-half.
And ESPN has now claimed that Newcastle captain Lascelles was a last-minute addition to Mourinho’s list of targets, with the club also willing to table an offer for the Englishman in January. But, as luck would have it, the 55-year-old was sacked just ahead of Christmas after a 3-1 loss to rivals Liverpool, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer taking charge on an interim basis.
United also decided to reinforce the squad last month, with Solskjaer rather more interested in getting to know the existing squad and being open to promoting younger players to the first team. Since Mourinho’s exit, Lascelles has also gone on to sign a new long-term deal with the Magpies, ensuring his future at St James’ Park until 2024.
And the Norwegian’s reign has seen United find their groove back, in the league at least, with the club not tasting defeat yet and climbing back up to fourth in the premier League table. The club’s higher-ups are, however, still keen to improve defensively come the summer, with it being suggested that interest could be renewed for the likes off Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli and Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar, despite both commanding massive fees.
Last month, Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson named three defensive players he felt the Red Devils should be looking to sign. “Defensively they are not good enough, they need defenders,” he said. “Toby Alderweireld and Kalidou Koulibaly are two players United should be targeting. Those two are the best two centre-backs in the world, along with Thiago Silva. Alderweireld probably could be purchased at a reasonable price, too.”
In Alderweireld’s case, Spurs opted to extend his contract by a year last month, thus keeping him at the club till the end of next season.
If the report is anywhere near being true, then it shows that United’s chiefs and Woodward were willing to hang onto Mourinho at least until the summer and back his winter targets, but the defeat to the Reds changed their plans and forced their hands. And Lascelles, who has impressed while leading the Magpies back line over the past few years, if successful, would have turned out to be a bargain buy in an increasingly inflated market for transfers.