Mateo Kovacic identified as final piece of Manchester United’s midfield jigsaw – report

by Harry Robinson

Manchester United have identified Real Madrid midfielder Mateo Kovacic as a potential replacement for 36-year-old Michael Carrick.

The Englishman is set to retire at the end of the season and join the coaching staff at Old Trafford and Man United are keen to replace an influential figure who has played at a high level in the side for over a decade.

Kovacic is struggling for game time at the Santiago Bernabeu due to Real Madrid’s depth of quality in midfield, sitting behind the fantastic trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro in the pecking order. Kroos and Modric’s partnership is virtually impenetrable.

Le 10 Sport make the obvious point that Kovacic will be keen for regular first-team football ahead of the FIFA 2018 World Cup this summer. However, it’s likely United’s interest, if there is any, would come in summer.

Belgian midfielder Marouane Fellaini, once much scapegoated at the club, looks likely to leave the club in summer after thus far refusing a new contract at United.

Jose Mourinho needs another new midfielder. £89m was spent on Paul Pogba in 2016 and £35m on Nemanja Matic from Chelsea in 2017. But if United are to play with a 4-3-3 formation and thus a 3-man midfield, the way to free Pogba up and get the very best out of the Frenchman is allowing him to play on the left side and roam. That can only be done with a stronger midfielder than Ander Herrera partnering Matic behind him.

Kovacic will also draw interest from his former-club Inter Milan if he’s ready to be sold by Real Madrid, having been signed for €30m in 2015. With one start and six substitute appearances in La Liga this season, the only reason Real Madrid would have for keeping him is if he’s seen as the long-term replacement for Modric.

However, the Croatian may be unwilling to accept season after season of irregular first team football for that.

The worry of a deal for Kovacic is that it begins chances for Real Madrid to ask for David de Gea as a part of any deal once more.

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