Ratcliffe targets almost unthinkable Man Utd swoop for Casemiro replacement battling against relegation

Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Ross Barkley

Sir Jim Ratcliffe could pursue a Man Utd deal for Ross Barkley this summer

New Manchester United co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe is reportedly lining up a shock replacement from a Premier League rival to replace veteran midfielder Casemiro this summer.

The boyhood United fan completed his minority takeover of the Red Devils this week and has already made it very clear that the current Old Trafford squad needs some big improvements made to it.

Defence and midfield are both areas that have been prioritised, with Erik ten Hag’s engine room exposed badly at times this season despite the emergence of supreme talent  Kobbie Mainoo.

Casemiro and Christian Eriksen are both being tipped to move on at the end of the season and, according to The Sun, Ratcliffe is ready to turn to Luton Town for one new recruit.

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The tabloid reports that former England midfielder Ross Barkley is very much on Ratcliffe’s radar as United look to reduce their wage bill and not fall foul of Financial Fair Play restrictions.

FFP concerns are said to have played a major part in United‘s decision not to add a new striker to their ranks in the January window, although Rasmus Hojlund’s form since the turn of the year has alleviated any goalscoring issues the club where having from their central striking position.

Casemiro is currently United’s highest earner on £350,000 a week and has already been attracting interest from the Saudi Pro League.

And The Sun staes that Ratcliffe views bringing in 30-year-old Barkley as good value as his replacement.

The report adds that both Ratcliffe and INEOS director of sport Sir Dave Brailsford are both huge admirers of Barkley from their time together at Ligue 1 side Nice.

The former Everton and Chelsea man spent last season at the French club before joining Luton on a free transfer last August.

Since returning to the Premier League, Barkley has become an integral part of a team battling to avoid an immediate return to the Championship, with his performance levels almost reaching the heights of his early career at Goodison Park.

Barkley back playing at an elite level

Speaking earlier this month, former Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas, who spent a year alongside Barkley at Stamford Bridge, praised the midfielder for the outstanding impact he has made at Kenilworth Road.

“He’s playing at a fantastic level,” he told the BBC’s Planet Premier League podcast.

“I’m very happy for him because he lost his way a little bit. He lost his confidence and now he’s back at it.

“He took maybe two steps backward to be able to perform again at the level that he knows he can. You always need a player like this.

“And he’s surrounded by good players but solid players defensively so he can also have this license to go forward as we see, even if he plays in a double pivot and needs to be a little bit more responsible than he used to be in his early days.

“But, they always saw Ross as a number eight, more box-to-box. It’s true that now as a number six physically he’s a machine.

“I think physically he’s one of the best players, but the personality that he plays with I think is the standout for this Luton side.

“To play with players of this personality gives them this one or two seconds extra of possession on the ball that makes things happen, makes this team tick.

“They cannot be 90 minutes defending, especially against teams like Man United, Man City. You need to hold on to the ball a little bit to create something and to give air to your teammates.

“He’s the guy to do it and he’s doing it very well.”

Barkley has scored three goals and added three assists in 24 appearances for the Hatters this season, which are not stats that immediately jump out. However, his all-round game and leadership qualities have shown how he has matured as a player since his time on Merseyside and in west London.

To that end, Ratcliffe is clearly impressed, although signing a 30-year-old Luton midfielder to solve United’s midfield issues could end up being a tough sell to Old Trafford fans.

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