The Telegraph are reporting that Manchester United are set to sign Stoke City goalkeeper Lee Grant in a move that will come as something of a surprise to both sets of supporters.
The 35-year-old is hugely experienced having made over 500 appearances in a career that has seen him play for Derby County, Sheffield Wednesday and Burnley.
He initially joined Stoke on loan in the summer of 2016 before making the move permanent the following summer for a fee in excess of £2 million.
However, the majority of his spell at the Bet365 Stadium has seen him act as cover for Jack Butland, although he has often impressed when he has deputised for the England international over the previous two years.
Grant made just five appearances for The Potters last season, three coming in the Premier League.
The Telegraph are reporting that Jose Mourinho’s interest in the veteran goalkeeper stems from his intention to let a number of United’s younger players to go out on loan next season.
Sam Johnstone has spent the previous eighteen months with Aston Villa and has yet to decide upon his long-term future whilst current third choice goalkeeper Joel Pereira is expected to be loaned out to gain first team experience.
Any move would leave Grant effectively in partial retirement with a route to United’s starting eleven blocked by David de Gea and Sergo Romero.
Stoke’s goalkeeping dilemma
Whilst Manchester United’s interest in Lee Grant is currently little more than newspaper talk and rumours it does bring to the fore the question of Stoke City’s goalkeeping situation.
Jack Butland has cemented his place as the club’s number one over the previous three seasons but the England international, who is part of Gareth Southgate’s squad at the World Cup in Russia, is widely expected to leave in the summer.
Should the 25-year-old depart and Manchester United follow up on their interest and sign Grant then that would leave Stoke in the unenviable position of having just one senior goalkeeper on their books – Jakob Haugaard.
The Danish stopper joined the club in the summer of 2015 from Midtjylland for an undisclosed fee but has never truly impressed.
He made a handful of appearances in his debut season but looked indecisive, nervous and made a number of mistakes that led to the team conceding goals before effectively being relegated to third choice.
Haugaard did have a more productive spell on loan with Wigan Athletic for the second half of the 2016/17 campaign but has never subsequently been in the frame for a starting role upon his return to The Potters.
It is unlikely that Gary Rowett will place his faith in Haugaard for the upcoming season, although the 26-year-old has been offered a new contract, which leaves the new Stoke manager with something of a goalkeeping conundrum.
In effect, the club may end up needing to sign two new goalkeepers ahead of the new season, yet it is likely that Rowett will be keen to concentrate his transfer funds in other areas of the pitch.
Furthermore, Stoke are somewhat hamstrung until Butland’s future is decided.
Although there is a general expectancy that the 25-year-old will leave in the summer it is difficult to identify a Premier League club that has both the financial muscle to pay Stoke’s potential £30 million asking price and require a new goalkeeper.
Manchester City have Ederson; Manchester United have David de Gea; Chelsea have Thibaut Courtois; and Tottenham Hotspur have Hugo Loris.
Even the likes of Everton and Burnley will have little desire to splash a significant portion of their transfer budget on a goalkeeper considering that they currently have Jordan Pickford and Nick Pope on their books respectively.
Which leaves only Arsenal and Liverpool as potential contenders for Butland’s signature, with all currently quiet on the rumour front.
Rowett’s goalkeeping tightrope
With such little current interest in Jack Butland it may not be unreasonable that Gary Rowett has his fingers crossed and is hoping that the England international will remain at the Bet365 Stadium.
The club hierarchy have already demonstrated their intent to secure promotion in the forthcoming campaign by signing Wolverhampton Wanders’ striker Benik Afobe and Nigerian international Oghenekaro Etebo.
Furthermore, Joe Allen’s decision to sign a new contract, despite being widely expected to depart following relegation, may just enhance the possibility of Butland remaining at Stoke City for the immediate future.
That would be the perfect, although some would say most unlikely, scenario.
However, if Butland does leave then it would make little sense to sanction Lee Grant’s departure as well.
The veteran goalkeeper would be a suitable candidate to challenge for the number one jersey and would leave Rowett requiring only one new signing in that position as the club embark on their season in the Championship.
The worst-case scenario would be that both Butland and Grant depart, with Stoke left in the unenviable position of needing to sign two new goalkeepers.
It is a fine tightrope for Rowett to walk and he will need to use all of his managerial nous to ensure that the latter does not become a reality. In any case, Stoke’s new manager certainly has plenty to think about when it comes to his goalkeeping department.