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Manchester United thought they had a free run at West Ham midfielder Declan Rice after Chelsea signed Saul Niguez on loan, according to reports. United enjoyed a fruitful summer transfer window, bringing in three marquee signings, but they are already thinking ahead to 2022 and have their eye on Rice.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side brought in Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane in the off-season, yet the club’s hierarchy have now turned their attention to the future.
That means finding a holding midfielder, with the team’s current options of Fred, Scott McTominay, Nemanja Matic and Donny van de Beek not without their faults.
Many supporters wanted a new player brought into midfield but were left disappointed, with Solskjaer focusing on central defence and attack instead.
However, The Sun reports that United have made Rice a priority target and they ‘feel they are in a strong position’ to capture his signature.
Their confidence has also been boosted by Chelsea’s movements in the summer window.
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The Blues were long rumoured to be in the market for a central midfielder to bolster Thomas Tuchel’s options and ended up signing Saul on loan from Atletico Madrid on deadline day.
Chelsea paid £3.4million (€4m) up front for the Spaniard’s services and have the option to make the deal permanent for £30m (€35m) next summer.
That decision has played into United’s hands, with the Old Trafford club believing it is a sign of their rival’s intent.
The Sun says ‘it is felt this has meant they are no longer keen on’ Rice – a player who they released as a 14-year-old from their academy.
Rice has previously been a major transfer target for Chelsea, especially when Frank Lampard was still in charge.
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However, it seems Chelsea have backed away from their former player, who still has three years left to run on his current West Ham contract.
West Ham value Rice at around £100m and their manager, David Moyes, was firm in his response to transfer interest at the back end of last season.
Yet Rice has further increased his standing through his performances for England at Euro 2020 and is sure to attract more attention once the January and summer transfer windows open.
Manchester City are another club said to be seriously interested in Rice, given their need to replace Fernandinho at the end of the campaign.
The Brazilian is now 36 years old and Pep Guardiola is understood to be a fan of Rice.
Considering City spent £100m to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa in the summer, another transfer fee in that ballpark should not be ruled out.
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