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Manchester United

Manchester United’s Lee Grant interest highlights Stoke goalkeeping dilemma

The 35-year-old is attracting the attention of the Red Devils.

Martyn Cooke

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Grant
Photo: Getty Images

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.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

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.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

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.

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

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Manchester United

Three Manchester United youngsters to watch out for this season

There is a breadth of young talent available to Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford.

Martyn Cooke

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Manchester United
Photo: Getty Images

Manchester United have already made significant moves in the transfer market as Jose Mourinho continues to refine and remould his squad in preparation for the new campaign.

Brazilian midfielder Fred arrived in a £52 million deal from Shakhtar Donetsk last month whilst Portuguese full-back Diogo Dalot was signed from Porto for £19 million earlier in the summer. The high-profile duo have also been joined be veteran Stoke City goalkeeper Lee Grant, who has been brought in to act as experienced covered for David de Gea and Sergio Romero.

Mourinho is expected to make further additions before the start of the season but he should also consider casting a keen eye at some of the youngsters that have been making waves within the United academy over the previous two or three years.

Here are three youngsters that Manchester United supporters should keep an eye on this season.

(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

James Garner

Manchester United are currently blessed with an abundance of talented central midfielder players including Paul Pogba, the world’s most expensive footballer, new £52 million arrival Fred and experienced enforcer Nemanja Matic.

However, it is widely considered that James Garner will soon be listed among those prestigious names after the academy graduate made rapid progress over the previous twelve months. The 17-year-old only signed his first professional contract in May and he is set to tour with the first team during the pre-season preparations, putting him firmly on Jose Mourinho’s radar.

Garner is versatile central midfield player that is equally as adept playing in a holding position or in a more advanced role whilst he has also been utilised as a central defender during his spell in academy football. He is renowned for being a natural leader and is the current England under-17’s captain.

The midfielder was a central figure in the United youth team that won the Premier League North last season and he is being tipped to make his competitive first team debut in the coming year.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

Axel Tuanzebe

Jose Mourinho has struggled to find a reliable central defensive partnership during his spell at Manchester United due to injuries and the sporadic form of some of his senior players.

However, in Axel Tuanzebe he might have a potential solution.

The 20-year-old is renowned for his power, strength and pace and has developed a well-earned reputation as being the most talented young central defender on Manchester United’s books. His ability to read the game is reminiscent of Rio Ferdinand whilst his physical presence is similar to that of Eric Bailey.

Tuanzebe has already made a handful of first team appearances since making his debut in January 2017 as a substitute in a four-goal victory against Wigan Athletic and he spent the second half of last season on loan with Aston Villa. He played only a scattering of games at Villa Park as they club reached the Championship play-offs but will return to Old Trafford better for the experience.

Mourinho has publicly praised the central defender in the past and appears to rate him highly – he may way emerge as a regular feature of the United team if he is able to capitalise on any opportunities he is provided.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

Angel Gomes

Manchester United’s modern history is filled with legendary players that were loved by supporters because of their pace, technical ability and creativity on the ball – in Angel Gomes the club appear to have someone that fits the mould perfectly.

The 17-year-old joined United’s academy at the age of six and has been hugely impressive throughout the formative years of his career.

He became the youngest player in over a decade to make his first team debut when he was used as a substitute in May 2017 at just 16 years and 263 days old in a late-season fixture against Crystal Palace, also becoming the first player born in the 2000’s to play in the Premier League.

Gomes can play anywhere across the three attacking midfield positions with his dribbling and innovative skill highlighting him from his peers. He is a somewhat diminutive figure but has the ability to dictate the pace and flow of a game with his intelligence, vision and impressive range of passing.

Since making his first team debut the 17-year-old has not featured for Mourinho’s side in a competitive fixture but he is being widely tipped to re-emerge and feature in the forthcoming year.

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Everton

Everton should consider Luke Shaw as Kieran Tierney alternative

Everton are moving closer to signing Leighton Baines’ long-term successor.

Liam Thomas

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Luke Shaw
Photo: Getty images

Everton are on the hunt for a long-term replacement for current left back Leighton Baines and have been hotly linked with a move for Celtic’s 21-year-old star Kieran Tierney.

According to The Daily Record, Everton are edging closer to securing Tierney’s services for a £25 million fee, but there has been no deal officially done yet, and Celtic are keen to keep hold of their top prospect.

There is, however, another left back option out there whose talent is undeniable and is an option Marco Silva and the Everton hierarchy should be exploring; Manchester United outcast Luke Shaw.

Shaw’s torrid time at Manchester United has been well documented, and 22-year-old defender hasn’t managed to hold down a regular position in Jose Mourinho’s starting XI since the Portuguese manager took over at Old Trafford in 2016.

It would be silly of Everton not to explore the opportunity of capturing Shaw’s signature.

The England international is only a year older than Tierney and already has a heap of Premier League experience; meaning he could come into the Toffees setup and hit the ground running, unlike Tierney who may need time to settle.

At 22 years of age, Shaw still has his best years ahead of him and this is something Everton are reportedly looking for in their search to replace their long-term left back Leighton Baines.

So why not take a punt on Shaw? If the pacey full-back could reproduce any of the form he showed playing for Southampton under Mauricio Pochettino he’d be an incredible purchase for the Toffees.

Considering his current relationship with Mourinho, Shaw would be the obvious choice of left-back to explore and would likely be available if Everton came calling for him, while prizing Tierney away from Celtic may be more hassle than it’s worth.

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Liverpool

As some Liverpool fans call for his signing, Shinji Kagawa could be an excellent addition

The Japanese international worked under Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund.

Mathew Nash

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Japan are out of the World Cup but they gained many a fan with their brave effort against Belgium last night. The Samurai Blue led 2-0 before goals from Jan Vertonghen, Marouane Fellaini and Nacer Chadli helped the Red Devils to victory. But there were several incredible performances, including from Borussia Dortmund playmaker Shinji Kagawa.

He was exceptional in the middle of the park, linking the attack to defence masterfully in a performance which reminded people just why Manchester United once splashed out on his signature.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

In fact, his performances at the World Cup overall have been fantastic. So much so, that some of the fans from United’s bitter rivals Liverpool are suggesting they make a move for the player:

The reasons why are clear. Jurgen Klopp is a big fan of Kagawa and first took him to European football with Borussia Dortmund. He got the best out of the player and was a truly massive fan of his. Back in 2013, with Kagawa out of the picture at United, Klopp told The Guardian it broke his heart to see and that it had put ‘tears in his eyes’. He also dubbed Kagawa ‘one of the best players in the world.’

Now, 29-year-old Kagawa is looking back to his best. He was one of Dortmund’s best players last season, before an ankle injury cut things short and under the guidance of his former boss Klopp he could be a star – which would be great to rub in Manchester United’s face.

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