Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Ruthless Ratcliffe ready to spend second biggest fee in Man Utd history as upgrade for transfer flop Ten Hag wants gone

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is reportedly keen to bring Athletic Bilbao star Nico Williams to Man Utd

Sir Jim Ratcliffe is reportedly keen to bring Athletic Bilbao star Nico Williams to Man Utd

Manchester United are reportedly ready to pay close to a club-record fee to convince Athletic Bilbao to sell them Nico Williams in December – amid claims manager Erik ten Hag has made a final decision to replace a Red Devils star who has fallen short of expectations.

The Dutchman is planning ahead for United’s long-term future and is drawing up plans for the next two transfer windows, despite speculation lingering over his future. And with Sir Jim Ratcliffe due to finalise his 25 per cent purchase of the club in the coming weeks, there appears no immediate plans to sack Ten Hag as Manchester United manager.

Ten Hag’s immediate priority, though, is to bolster his squad with a couple of key additions in January, with a new striker – to help take the workload off Rasmus Hojlund very much a priority.

The Dane has acquitted himself well since signing for United, scoring five times in six Champions League games, although the campaign for the club as a whole was not anything to write home about.

Domestically, however, Hojlund has struggled and is yet to open his account in the Premier League, drawing a blank in 13 appearances over a total of 888 minutes.

We revealed last week, however, that there are mitigating circumstances for his struggles, with United having to manage his workload as he struggles to overcome a niggling back injury.

As a result, Ten Hag is desperate to add a new source of goals to take some of the heat of Hojlund’s shoulders.

One player who has been afforded a few chances of late is Anthony Martial, who is now in his ninth season as a Manchester United player.

However, the France forward has only managed two goals in 19 appearances so far this season.

READ MORE ~ Worst finishers in the Premier League based on xG: Hojlund third on the list

Martial to leave Man Utd as Ratcliffe targets Nico Williams

And Martial has put in two of those laboured displays of late in matches against Newcastle and Bournemouth, that have sadly epitomised his struggles at Old Trafford.

Now, with the Frenchman’s deal expiring at Old Trafford in the summer, Ten Hag is ready to let him depart – possibly as soon as January in an effort to recoup a small fee for him. And while United have the option to further extend his deal by another 12 months into a 10th season, it’s reportedly been decided that the end of road is imminent and that Ten Hag has decided he no longer counts on the player to do a job for the club.

That, for one, will come as a big relief for Roy Keane, who recently told Martial a few home truths, especially around a lowly club he may next find himself joining.

As a result, reports in Spain now claim Ratcliffe and Ten Hag have already decided on a dream replacement for Martial in form of Athletic Bilbao forward Nico Williams.

The 21-year-old is regarded as one of the brightest young attacking talents in LaLiga, having scored four goals and added five assists from 15 appearances so far this season.

With a goal contribution every 1.66 matches, it’s easy to see why the 11-times capped Spain international is so highly rated. Indeed, Bilbao tied him to a bumper new deal earlier this month as a reward for his magnificent progress.

United ready to pay close to club-record fee

However, it’s now claimed Ratcliffe is willing to pay as much as €100m (£86.2m) to tempt Bilbao into the sale of their star asset.

Believing he will only get even better, it’s claimed Ratcliffe is a huge fan of the player and believes his ability to play off either wing or as a central striker would be hugely beneficial to Ten Hag and would provide a major upgrade on Martial.

Whether Bilbao, who are currently fifth in LaLiga, would be tempted to cash in on their star man remains to be seen.

And were the fee to go through that would represent the second biggest fee in United’s history, sat narrowly behind the £89.2m paid for Paul Pogba back in summer 2016.

Williams is contracted to Bilbao until summer 2027 and has scored 25 times, adding 12 assists in 130 appearances so far. He’s also been mentioned as a target for Barcelona, Liverpool and Aston Villa in recent weeks.

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