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14th Jan 2024

Man United identify ‘priority signing’ as they prepare to let striker leave

Patrick McCarry

Joao Neves

The first of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s two priority signings have great potential.

Manchester United look set to target loan or cheaper signings in the January transfer windows, but Ratcliffe and the new ‘football operations’ team have a big summer planned. Benfica’s teenage prospect Joao Neves has been identified as a “priority signing”.

The first clue as to how United’s latest revamp was going to look occurred earlier this month when reports emerged of the club sounding out Crystal Palace over a summer move for Michael Olise. That move may involve defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka heading back to Selhurst Park.

The Mirror is now reporting that Neves, a 19-year-old midfielder with Benfica and Portugal, is high on their shopping list. The report states:

‘Joao Neves has a €120million buy-out clause worth £103m and is considered one of the best young prospects in Europe. British billionaire Sir Jim Ratcliffe, 71, who completed his £1.3billion 25 per cent takeover of United on Christmas Eve, is determined to improve their recruitment this year. Neves, who has made nine Champions League appearances, is viewed as a priority investment following a challenging season for the Old Trafford club.’

Neves made his Benfica debut, aged 18, in January 2023 and has since played 48 times for the Portuguese giants. He made his Portugal debut just a few weeks after he turned 19 and has made three national team appearances.

While United eye the central midfielder as a summer signing, they may be making some more room by moving on another striker. The club signed Joe Hugill to a new deal, recently, before loaning him out to Burton Albion for the rest of the season. They may be seeking a new loan club for Charlie McNeil as the young forward has struggled for game time at Stevenage.

One forward that may be close to a permanent move away from United is 20-year-old Mateo Mejia. Born in Spain but a Colombia U20 international, the striker has attracted interest from Sevilla. Mejia has scored three goals and has five assists for the United U23s, this season.

Sevilla are also keen on a loan deal for Hannibal Mejbri but, according to reports in Spain, United would be happy to send the midfielder to Everton, to pick up more Premier League experience.

Joao Neves and Mateo Mejia. (Getty)

As United eye Neves, Juventus and Ajax try woo Jordan Henderson

Manchester United’s pursuit of Joao Neves is unlikely to have any major progression until the summer. One central midfielder that could be on the move in the January transfer window is Jordan Henderson, albeit on loan.

The former Liverpool captain looks to be using Saudi side Al-Ettifaq as a staging post, as his career winds down, much like David Beckham did with LA Galaxy [securing loan moves to AC Milan, twice].

Henderson’s representatives have let it be known that the 33-year-old is keen to stir his competitive juices in other leagues. The Mirror report that a loan move to Ajax is close, while Gazzetto dello Sport claim Juventus are in pole position for a loan switch as they may make any deal permanent, if all goes well, in the summer.

Wrapping up with more midfielder news, Fichajes report that both Chelsea and Liverpool are keen on Newcastle United midfielder Bruno Guimaraes. PSG and Barcelona are also scouting the Brazilian.

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