Manchester United

Manchester United

Premier League • England

Senior Man Utd star’s days numbered amid Saudi interest, as Ten Hag targets shrewd successor

Man Utd midfielder Casemiro and Monaco's Youssouf Fofana

Casemiro could be replaced at Man Utd by Youssouf Fofana

Manchester United are in pursuit of Monaco midfielder Youssouf Fofana amid interest from the Saudi Pro League in Casemiro, according to a couple of reports from one website.

Casemiro is one of Man Utd’s most senior players, having brought a wealth of experience with him when joining the club from Real Madrid last summer. However, despite the length of the contract he was given, few – including prospective investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe – have perceived him to be a long-term option in their midfield.

Now, 90min has revealed that Casemiro could even leave Man Utd in January, when he might be the subject of offers from the ever-evolving and financially lucrative Saudi Pro League.

It is not clear which specific clubs in Saudi Arabia he could go to, but intermediaries are said to be putting in work to find out if they could orchestrate a deal for the Brazil international.

In turn, the same source is reporting in a separate piece that Man Utd have set their eyes upon Monaco’s Fofana as someone who could fill the void.

Monaco only have control of Fofana’s contract until the end of next season, so are at risk of losing him in the summer for a cut-price fee.

It is something Man Utd could look to take advantage of after already trying to acquire the France international in the summer, although they will now have to win the race to sign Fofana ahead of several Premier League rivals.

According to 90min, Fofana is also of interest to Arsenal (whose Thomas Partey faces an uncertain future), Liverpool (who are still in the market for a defensive midfielder) and Sandro Tonali (who are seeking a replacement for the banned Sandro Tonali).

West Ham have also looked at Fofana previously, although it is not entirely clear if they are still planning anything for him.

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Fofana will turn 25 during the January transfer window, so it might be a good time for him to take the next step of his career.

He joined Monaco from Strasbourg in January 2020 and has since made 151 appearances for the club, contributing 14 assists and three goals.

This season, he has chiefly operated as a holding midfielder for Monaco across 11 Ligue 1 appearances, which suggests he could step into the same territory Casemiro operates in for Man Utd.

And although he is younger than Casemiro, Fofana has his own leadership qualities, having been handed the captain’s armband for a couple of Monaco games this term.

How do Fofana and Casemiro compare statistically?

In the early days of the 2023-24 season, Fofana has been busier than Casemiro in league football, playing 11 times compared to the Premier League star’s eight.

Comparing their statistics per 90 minutes, Fofana has been better at creating chances (1.5 compared to 1.0) and completing passes (52.1 compared to 49.4).

A lot of his work in possession is forward-thinking, too. Fofana attempts more through balls on average (0.6 compared to 0.2), forward passes (22.5 compared to 21.4), and passes in the opposition half (31.1 compared to 27.5).

Another key difference is that Fofana outranks Casemiro for short passes completed (49.4 compared to 46.1), but the Man Utd man usurps his potential replacement for long passes completed (3.4 compared to 2.8).

Fofana also expresses his confidence at take-ons, of which he completes 1.3 per 90 compared to Casemiro’s 0.5.

Defensively, Fofana concedes fouls at a lesser rate (1.3 compared to 1.6) and makes twice as many interceptions (1.4 compared to 0.7).

However, in Casemiro’s favour is the fact that he makes more clearances (2.3 compared to 1.0), blocks (0.7 compared to 0.2) and tackles (3.0 compared to 1.8).

Casemiro also averages more duels won on the ground (4.1 compared to 3.3) and in the air (1.9 compared to 0.4).

Areas in which they are similar include touches (78.2 for Fofana and 77.7 for Casemiro), shots (1.4 for Fofana and 1.6 for Casemiro, but 0.6 on target for both) and discipline (0.2 yellow cards each).

Overall, while each player has their own unique traits, nothing jumps out from the data to suggest Fofana would not be up to the task of succeeding Casemiro if he was able to adapt to the Premier League.

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