Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag is already thinking of a long-term replacement for troubled wingers Antony and Jadon Sancho with reports in Spain claiming the Red Devils boss is considering meeting the €50m exit clause in the contract of a classy Athletic Bilbao star.
The Red Devils have endured a difficult start to the season both on and off the field. After a promising start to Ten Hag’s reign that saw United finish third and win the Carabao Cup, the club will have been hopeful of building on that progress this season.
However, United have looked anything but convincing in their first four matches of the season, that has yielded two defeats, while big problems off the field have also dogged their prospects.
First up, Ten Hag’s comments about his reasons for axing Sancho from his squad for last week’s 3-1 loss to Arsenal have provoked an angry reaction from the winger. And with the 23-year-old publicly calling out his manager for scapegoating him and for not being transparent with the truth, the winger now finds himself in a rather difficult spot.
Indeed, speculation rose last week that Sancho could even find himself cast aside amid a significant and tempting offer from Al-Ettifaq.
Ultimately that deal did not go through, but it seems Sancho faces quite the battle both to win Ten Hag’s trust and earn redemption after his public criticism of his manager. To that end, some observers suggest he may well have already played his last game for the Red Devils.
If that wasn’t bad enough for United, more unwanted publicity has landed on their doorstep over the weekend amid some disturbing assault allegations towards Brazil winger Antony.
Man Utd ‘want Nico Williams to replace Sancho and Antony’
Already withdrawn by Brazil in the wake of the allegations, Antony and United have also mutually decided on a period of absence for the player as he addresses the allegations.
At this stage, there is no verdict on when the player will allow to return, though he has already spoken out to strongly deny the claims.
It all means that Ten Hag’s options down the right are extremely limited at this moment in time. Facundo Pellistri remains one such option there, while Amad Diallo is another name they can turn to. Both, however, remain extremely inexperienced at the highest level.
United can play both Alejandro Garnacho there if needs be, though his best position is on the opposite flank.
As such, it is little surprise to see the Spanish media suggest a potential option in the form of Nico Williams.
Per reports, United boss Ten Hag has ‘set their eyes’ on the 21-year-old, as he looks for a quick-fire solution to his right-wing problems.
And Williams, who was the subject of a failed big-money approach from Aston Villa over the summer, has been branded an achievable target given the player has a relatively modest €50m (£42.8m) exit clause in his Athletic Bilbao deal.
The nine-times capped winger, who rejected the move to Villa, despite seeing Unai Emery’s side meet his release clause, has also on Monday been linked with a move to Liverpool as they continue to contemplate life after Mo Salah.
However, it is United who are reportedly hottest on his trail and they reportedly want to persuade the winger to move to Old Trafford as soon as January, and in effort to prevent him signing a new deal in the Basque Country.
Understandably, Bilbao want to reward the 21-goal star with an extension that recognises both his fine form and also seriously inflates the current exit clause in his deal.