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Football

24th May 2018

How 15 minutes cost Manchester United one of their top summer targets

How different it could have been

Darragh Murphy

Manchester United have made no secret of the fact that they are eager to bring in a midfielder this summer.

With Michael Carrick retiring, manager Jose Mourinho has prioritised the centre of the park as one of the areas he’s most keen to strengthen. Two midfielders identified by Mourinho ahead of the transfer window were Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fred and Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

The most recent reports claim that United are nearing a deal for the former while it’s emerged that 15 crucial minutes at the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday could have cost them the latter.

The Red Devils had been monitoring the status of Milinkovic-Savic for some time but, according to The Guardian, Lazio raised their asking price for the Serbia international after they failed to qualify for the Champions League.

Lazio were on course to finish in the top four of Serie A and knew that a draw would be enough to see them safely through to the Champions League before an epic comeback from Inter condemned them to a fifth-place finish.

Had Lazio qualified for the Champions League then they would reportedly have been willing to accept a lesser offer for Milinkovic-Savic but now they want at least €100m for their star midfielder and United are not prepared to match that figure.

Inter’s comeback was a dramatic and well-documented one as Stefan de Vrij, who is reportedly set to move to Inter this summer, conceded the penalty from which Mauro Icardi equalised.

Conspiracy theorists questioned the intent of De Vrij as his mistake likely guaranteed himself Champions League football next term if the move to the San Siro comes to fruition.

Milinkovic-Savic, meanwhile, is seemingly staying put.