Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Man Utd lead race for standout Prem centre-back as Ten Hag rift pushes star towards £50m-a-year Saudi offer

Jarrad Branthwaite linked with Man Utd

Man Utd are in pole position for Everton's Jarrad Branthwaite

Manchester United are prime contenders to sign Everton defender Jarrad Branthwaite in the summer, according to a report – which has dropped at a similar time to another claiming an existing Red Devils centre-back could be bound for Saudi Arabia.

Branthwaite has been reintegrated by Everton this season after last term’s loan spell in the Eredivisie with PSV and he has played like someone who has always been a key player.

His form has caught the attention of Manchester United, after TEAMtalk revealed he was becoming a target for the Sir Jim Ratcliffe era last month.

There will be competition for Branthwaite’s signature, maybe even including from Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid, but according to Football Insider, it is Man Utd who are ‘leading the race’.

Indeed, the Red Devils are said to have got themselves into ‘pole position’ in anticipation of the next transfer window.

Their current left-footed centre-back, Lisandro Martinez, has just suffered another injury, highlighting how they might need more cover in his position.

Besides, right-footed options like Raphael Varane, Harry Maguire, Jonny Evans and Victor Lindelof may all be facing uncertain futures at Old Trafford.

Varane is looking like the most likely defender to leave Man Utd in the summer, when the club will reject the option of extending his contract for another season.

As one of their higher earners, Man Utd are prepared to let the former France international leave on a free transfer.

Rift revealed that could seal Man Utd defender’s fate

According to Football Insider, Varane has had his differences with manager Erik ten Hag this season, especially when the likes of Evans have been picked instead of him.

It led to a ‘rift’ between the pair, it is claimed, prompting Ten Hag to hold ‘clear-the-air talks’ with Varane.

And although that may have helped get them on the same page again – Varane started four Premier League matches in a row before Sunday’s win over West Ham – it has not stopped the former Real Madrid star being linked with an exit.

Indeed, Saudi Pro League side Al-Nassr are preparing an offer for Varane, the Daily Star has claimed.

Jarrad Branthwaite and Raphael Varane stats comparison

Comparing Branthwaite and Varane’s stats this season

Al-Nassr picked up Cristiano Ronaldo after his departure from Man Utd midway through last season, kickstarting the wave of players moving to the Middle East.

The same club have since added Alex Telles to their squad and could now make a third signing from Man Utd – even if that would be indirectly on a free transfer – in the shape of Varane.

It is claimed that they are willing to offer him a contract worth £50m per season, although it is not clear how long the deal would last.

Nor is it known how Varane would feel about playing in Saudi Arabia, but Pro League authorities have identified him as someone who could raise the profile of their project even further.

And they have the financial backing to make it difficult for Varane (who was also linked with some European clubs in January) to overlook their potential offer.

Al-Nassr could end up being the third club at which Varane has linked up with Ronaldo after their collaborations in Madrid and Manchester.

For now, he will continue focusing on concluding the season with Man Utd, in which he has so far made 21 of his 84 appearances for the club.

Likewise, all Branthwaite can do at Everton is keep ploughing away in their fight against relegation, having earned 26 of his 39 appearances for the club this season.

In October, he gained a contract extension until 2027, but with the way he has been developing, it is unlikely he will fulfil it.

Instead, it seems like something that will protect his value to Everton before they can cash in on him.

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