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⏰ Exclusive interview: Manchester United transfer round-up with Jacque Talbot ⏰

Jacque Talbot is the Chief football correspondent for Transferdotcom (Football Transfers) and also contributes to sport news for the Times, the Guardian, the Mirror and Planet Football. In this exclusive interview we discuss the recent transfer stories and rumours surrounding Manchester United and also the latest on the potential takeover of the club.

With the transfer window now in full flow, clubs all over the game are looking to improve their squads ahead of the upcoming season in order to either mount a title challenge, qualify for European football or just survive relegation. This week Manchester United announced their first signing in Mason Mount for a deal estimated to be around £60 million including add-ons, but what else does the window have in store for the club and will it be under new ownership by the time the first ball is kicked in the 2023/24 season? Football Transfer’s Jacque Talbot is a tier-one journalist and in this interview he gives us an insight into what may be on the horizon in the weeks to come.

Mason Mount – Bargain or Overpriced?

“I think it is somewhere in the middle really. Last season wasn’t great but, at the same time, I think the environment he was in wasn’t great so it was kind of hard and he had the issue of his future hanging over his head combined with little game time. However, in previous seasons he’s shown what he can do; won Chelsea Player of the Year twice, won the Champions League, so I think if he’s getting coached by Ten Hag and in the right environment then Utd have a real player there. I feel the deal at £60 million, including add-ons, is about right especially given his Premier League quality, the fact he’s English and his age as well so I feel he’ll do fine there (at United).”

“I’ve seen he’s been given the number 7, so I don’t think he’ll be the next Cantona or Ronaldo but I also don’t think he’ll be another Depay either, I think he’ll be better than that and it’d be great to see him thrive. So, yeah, I think it is a sound deal as I wouldn’t call it a bargain or a disaster but it is a sound deal. You could say it is a bit of a risk considering the money, in terms of the budget available to United, as it is a considerable sum. I thought an elite striker may have been better than a number 8 but he’s a pretty solid addition I’d say.”

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Man Utd budget available?

“No concrete figure, I mean there’s been some stuff about FFP also being a issue there and the takeover hasn’t helped so it depends what you read as some places say Ten Hag will have £200 million to spend, others saying the Glazers have only given his ‘X’ much more and others say that he couldn’t spend that much anyway due to FFP.

“I think the general feeling is that the figure is in the ball-park of I’d say £100 – £200 million but looks more like £150 million for them to spend in the summer, which is a considerable amount, but probably not the amount that a club with the pedigree of Man Utd would really want. I suspect that if you’re pushing towards a title challenge, probably the ambition after finishing 3rd, next season then you want to be getting £200 – £300 million or there abouts. Although, I would say that with the player sales that have been reported with the likes of Maguire, Fred, McTominay, etc, then I do wonder if they can accumulate some money for them, how much will go into the funds as that could be an extra £80 million.”

“The problem they may find is the bumper deals they’ve given players just means that they just won’t move because if your, for example, Harry Maguire who’s on something like £200,000 a week then who is going to match that when he has ‘X’ amount of years left on his deal? So, that’s the trouble, but obviously that can come into in as well if they are able to sell a few players, which I am sure they will do,” .

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André Onana and Goalkeeper options:

“I think it is a deal that will probably get done but I think Inter are going to hold out for a fair bit as he was tremendous last year for them. I think the player wants to move, that’s out there now isn’t it, he wants to go to Man Utd as they do still have that pull and I imagine it’ll be concluded then from there it will spur off a lot of other things such as what will happen with De Gea and even Dean Henderson going to Nottingham Forest, which seems quite probable,”

” So, yeah, that seems to be the focus at the moment (the goalkeeping situation) which is understandable and getting a goalkeeper that Ten Hag likes and is conducive to his style of play; someone who can distribute and is seen as the ‘modern goalkeeper’. I don’t think De Gea fits this, as good as he has been, so yeah it looks quite positive.”

“In terms of the Costa links, I was able to chase that a bit because there was a report that there was going to be an incoming bid from Man Utd, from Portugal, for him and when I looked into it there was not (chuckling). I mean he is relatively young Onana, especially for a goalkeeper, as I think he is 26, 27. With the other links (Bijlow, Raya, Bayindr, etc) I think everyone wants to throw their name to Man Utd, for whatever reason, because it gets clicks so then people search ‘Man Utd targets’ and end up finding out about new players which they generates a bit of publicity for that player.”

“In Costa’s case, I think it was a lot of postering from Mendes (Costa’s agent) or that there was a little bit of interest there as in a representative reaches out to Man Utd to have a conversation and then the representative tells the local reporters that Man Utd are interested, when in reality it was just a standard conversation.”

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Sofyan Amrabat:

“I think we’ve heard the name before linked to Liverpool, so there seems to be a bit of trend with this player as something gets put out about him yet nothing comes of it or into fruition. This makes it suspect and I’m sure Fiorentina wouldn’t mind a £50 million bid for him, would be my guess, but they may also tell their reporters “we don’t want to sell him” and all that nonsense, so it can get kind of confusing.

I’m not sure or heard about this one but it could be possible as all clubs like good players, for example Chelsea like Mbappe and Man Utd like Mbappe so you could do a story on either but it doesn’t mean it is tangible, more appreciated if anything. It all depends where the report(s) come from as I would be surprised if Ten Hag puts that much money in another midfielder having secured Mount and then requiring a goalkeeper and a number 9, which they don’t really have,”

(When discussing the quoted £25 million price tag of the player and ‘United tax’) ” Yeah, Man Utd do get a tax but their recent track record means they don’t do themselves much favours with their reputation and overpaying. They need a new director of football, I think, they need to get Paul Mitchell in or someone of that ilk as I don’t think the one they’ve got is rubbish, just isn’t to the standard required for a club like Man Utd. It could be the speed of the agents, but £25 million for Amrabat would be a bargain, to be fair.”

Romeo Lavia:

“Depends how far along in the window it goes because Caicedo will go to Chelsea eventually and Southampton, because of the buy-back clause that comes into effect next season with Man City for £40 million, are looking for bit more than that this year. This is pretty unprecedented, really, for a relegated side to ask for that kind of fee.”

“I think he’ll end up going to Liverpool but if it gets to sort of August time then the value will drop, to sort of £35 million or something like that, which means there could be a deal to be done there by other clubs like Man Utd as it depends on other factors at times. I mean with the whole ‘Monitoring FC’, the thing with that is that the club isn’t interested and it’s an agent-driven story that their monitoring which leads to people having a go at the club, who are like “we aren’t even monitoring him!” (chuckling).”

“I am sure he is held in high regard at the club because he’s nineteen, I think, and he did tremendously well for Southampton last season. So, for a Premier League quality nineteen-year old who plays central midfield, for like £40 million, is a bit of a bargain and I am sure Utd have an interest in him, but I have not heard anything particularly strong with regards to Lavia and them…not at present anyway.”

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Rasmus Højlund, Harry Kane and Randal Kolo Muani:

“I think the player (Højlund) might be posturing a lot as he’s with the same agency as Ten Hag, he recently changed, and when players change agency it’s because they want to force through a bit of a move. We did a story in the Times that Man Utd like him but Atalanta want £40 million (€50 million), which I always thought is a bit low, and we did speak to someone at Atalanta and they said it would be more like £60 million (€70 million) but they would rather the player stay another year cause his value will increase then.”

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“Also, keep in mind that they narrowly missed out on the Champions League last season so another year would help them but the player prefers United, I mean Atalanta or Man Utd is a no brainer despite it rains in Manchester but that’s it (chuckling). In terms of a bid, it depends on who reported it and if the rejected £35 million bid is true, then it is not uncommon for a club to put in a low-ball offer but don’t want to reveal it and then it gets out there. There is certainly firm interest there, there’s certainly firm interest, but it’s a matter of is it a risk maybe as he is quite young still and quite raw, so do they want to spend over £50 million on a player who looks like he will be really, really good but is still young.”

“Kolo Muani as well, Frankfurt want €100 million, that was the initial figure, but it keeps going down to like 70 – 80 million and further as it is not going to be €100 million, that’s just what they say. I always consider Bayern with him because if they don’t get Harry Kane then I think they will get Kolo Muani and Man United want Harry Kane and he wants Man United but if United had a bit more money to do that deal then it would be certain. At the moment, Daniel Levey does not want him to go to Man United, probably the worst club for him to go to if you’re Daniel Levy.”

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“However, there was talk that if it does to later in the window and Man United made a £70 million bid, or a package to this total, then it could be done and this is a such a sure fire thing, you ain’t getting it wrong, if you get Harry Kane for £70 million then you are going to do it. You would be getting in thirty-five goals plus guaranteed, basically, for the next season or even 4 seasons. It does depend on other factors I suppose, because if Bayern move soon then that could jeopardise it. With Højlund, I mean, I cannot see Man United going above £60 million for him because he’s just too young and too raw to put so much of their kitty into him when they want him as a bit of a back up anyway.”

(in terms of Kane waiting for United to come in later in the window) “Possibly, yeah. I think if you’re Harry Kane, and there has been talk that he wants to break Alan Shearer’s record and win trophies, then you’ve got a better chance to do both at Man United than at Spurs. In Germany, they’re all saying he wants to move to Bayern Münich but, whether you trust that, I don’t know as there is always an agenda so I guess it’ll go to the wire and a deal is possible.”

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“If Bayern Münich do go over the top of a £100 million bid for Harry Kane, is he going to sit around and wait? I don’t know if he will, I mean he’s guaranteed trophies there that’s for certain, he’s guaranteed trophies at Bayern Münich but I’d imagine his hope is that Man United, that would be ideal for him to cement his legacy at the best goal-scorer in the Premier League and he’s on course to do that. There’s not much Man United can do, if Bayern put in a £100 million bid and it is accepted, as they don’t have the money for that at the moment and it doesn’t help with the fractured relationship between Spurs and Man United.”


“There’s been a lot of stuff about McTominay to Newcastle but they got Tonali now, so I don’t think that’s going to happen. Certainly, Man United are trying to outsource him somewhere but also they can’t put him in the shop window then put a £40 million fee on him, I think he’ll have to go somewhere else.”

“Harry Maguire, Roma, something like that has been mentioned for £30 million but, again, it’s the wages.”

“Fred has been linked to Fulham, however, I think this is one that will fall late into the window, but I think he will be moved on. Again, it might depend on what happens to Palhinha at Fulham as I know they’re not exactly the same but there or there abouts.”

“Van de Beek could go back to Holland or somewhere like that, I imagine.”

“I think there as a overhaul of about eleven players that we reported on last year, when Ten Hag become the manager, that were just going to go. Anthony Martial may end up in Saudi Arabia because of his contract as he is on such high money so you may see him and a couple other go Saudi Arabia. I don’t think Martial could go somewhere like back to Monaco because they couldn’t afford his wages unless he took a drastic wage cut, so I think it will be over to Saudi Arabia for him.”

“Pellestri was one of the names but he did end up staying actually. Wan Bissaka was one of the first names we mentioned because he came back last season and was in really good shape, physically, but apparently Ten Hag likes his players to have a certain personality and Wan Bissaka just didn’t have that. I think it’s sort of, not necessarily tracking back but that dogged determination like Martinez and Casemiro have, that ilk, and Wan Bissaka didn’t have that, despite being technically gifted. So, he was earmarked to leave a lot of the time and United were looking at Justin Frimpong (from Bayern Leverkusen) but Wan Bissaka just came up with these performances post- World Cup where he was great, so they decided against selling him.”

“Luke Shaw is one we heard about and Leicester, early into last year, as Leicester liked him but it was the wages situation again and he’s turned it around relatively. So nothing specific, unfortunately, at the moment with United but hopefullly soon though.”

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Takeover Latest:

” I mean I’m a Newcastle fan and we had our takeover in 2020, or maybe 2021, and we had it for a year and a half so I do sympathise because it’s not like a transfer report, it’s the entire future of your club and the entire philosophy and everything about it. However, with it, when it comes to business and negotiations, the reporting on it is everywhere and you don’t know what to trust as it seems like you’re reading the same point everyday; “Ratcliffe is confident”, “The Quatari’s are confident”, “Oh they’re not feeling it anymore”.

“The only thing I have heard on this is in December, or just prior to that, that the takeover would be sorted out by around April or summer at the latest but it looks like it is not going to. The Glazers are intent on dragging out the process, for whatever reasons, whether it is to milk every last bit of money from each party and they’ve achieved it, to a degree, because they’ve got an extra billion from it. So, no, nothing really as it is all in the smoke because everyone has go their agenda as you can ask Ratcliffe was he thinks of it and he’ll say “yeah, we’re confident” but it doesn’t make a difference because you can go ask the Quatari’s the same question and they’ll say the same. “

“It’s all games, it’s all agendas but there is no empirical truth in it until the time when the Glazers come out and say they have sold and the someone like the Times report it. I imagine it’ll drag out another couple of months, that’s the only thing I’ll say on it, because that’s just the way it’s been as there’s been no sign of closure, despite both parties putting in their 5th and final bid but it’s coming up to 3 weeks since that and even then they haven’t had a response. It’s absolutely ridiculous, the whole thing. It even stresses me out and I’m not even a United supporter (chuckling) but I’m even like “I can’t be dealing with this” as it is same news every single day.”

“So I would say, on a fan level, to totally disengage from it entirely because I was obsessed with the Newcastle takeover and it happened eventually, but I used to be on it all the time seeing it was going to be tomorrow or the next day or the next. I even remember the Times saying it was going to be June 6th, yet it didn’t happen until a year and two months after that.”

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(Please insert a picture of the Glazers here mate…against my better judgement haha)

I would like to thank Jacques for taking the time to do this exclusive interview and if you wish to follow his work with Football Transfers (@Transfersdotcom) and the Times (@TimesSport), then give him a follow on Twitter at @jac_talbot and get the latest on the transfer stories from Manchester United and other clubs in the hunt for improving in preparation for next season.

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