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Dublin: 18°C Sunday 13 June 2021

Are Manchester United set for a dramatic January shake-up?

Swedish defender Victor Lindelof is expected to join next month with a litany of departures on the way too.

MANCHESTER UNITED COULD be set for a busy January with one new acquisition planned and three players expected to leave.

Jose Mourinho has been relatively coy about his plans for the transfer window but the club are pursuing a defensive target while those on the fringes are assessing their options.

A centre-back is a priority given Eric Bailly may miss an entire month due to his African Cup of Nations with Ivory Coast.

Benfica’s Victor Lindelof has been ear-marked as a replacement. The 22-year-old Swede, who started every game for his country at Euro 2016, may cost in the region of £38m – huge money given the youngster only became a first-team regular last term.

Portugal Soccer Champions League Source: Armando Franca

Still, the Portuguese side wish to be heavily compensated for losing a key player midway through the season.

Lindelof is highly-regarded and has been scouted by United for quite a while. Last month, Mourinho was in attendance to watch him up close during Sweden’s friendly with France.

Part of the victorious Sweden side that claimed the 2015 Under-21 European Championship, Lindelof was included in the Team of the Tournament and has experience playing at right-back – something that also appeals to United given winger Antonio Valencia continues to be a makeshift stopgap.

Much has been made of the solid central-defensive partnership formed by Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo in recent weeks but Mourinho, clearly, isn’t sold on it. With Chris Smalling – so impressive under Louis van Gaal over the last two seasons – increasingly ignored, Mourinho still needs convincing about United’s defensive setup.

Lindelof, a calm presence, has been likened to Rio Ferdinand or Ronny Johnsen – a composed and assured figure at the back. Tall and quick, he can cover ground quickly – an important attribute for the Premier League.

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Meanwhile, Mourinho needs to make space in his squad if he is to bring in Lindelof in January and fringe players will be allowed to leave.

United’s midfield will undergo some radical changes.

Marouane Fellaini is an interesting proposition. He last played a full game on 6 November but is still being used by Mourinho – albeit sparingly. His size and physicality give United something they lack but the Belgian international has been spotted in Milan and rumours are circulating that a move there is on the cards. However, solid sources say he’s spending a few days on holiday with family members.

The future looks decidedly more bleak for Morgan Schneiderlin and Memphis Depay.

Manchester City v Manchester United - Barclays Premier League - Etihad Stadium Source: Nigel French

The Frenchman has started three games all season – the League Cup game with Northampton and the Europa League defeats to Feyenoord and Fenerbahce. Against the Turks, he was replaced at half-time. From his five other appearances this season, he’s racked up a pitiful 33 minutes of action.

His former Southampton boss Ronald Koeman is ready to bring him to Everton and Mourinho won’t stand in Schneiderlin’s way if he wants to move.

Memphis Depay has endured a nightmare time at Old Trafford. It certainly hasn’t helped that, after a difficult first campaign, the man who signed him was sacked. And with so much competition for a starting role under Mourinho, he’s fallen to the bottom of the pecking order. In total, he’s managed just 79 minutes of action in all competitions and badly needs to leave the club to restart his career.

United will also look to offload Bastian Schweinsteiger ahead of what promises to be a very busy summer.

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About the author:

Eoin O'Callaghan

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