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Manchester United’s interest in Porto midfielder Vitinha could be a sign of the club deviating from their over-used and largely failed all-guns-blazing transfer strategy in recent years. The Red Devils may have gained inspiration from Liverpool’s contrasting fortunes with Jurgen Klopp’s recruitment as they enter Erik ten Hag’s first transfer window as manager.
Record, the first Portuguese outlet to report Liverpool’s interest in Darwin Nunez ahead of his £85million transfer, claim United are ready to meet Vitinha’s exit clause. Ten Hag is eyeing midfield reinforcements as a priority this summer, and the 22-year-old has seemingly caught his eye.
Vitinha could be on the verge of a return to the Premier League after his underwhelming loan spell at Wolves in the 2020-21 season. And United targeting him is a stark difference from their tendency to go for the biggest names for the biggest fees and the biggest wages during Ed Woodward’s tenure as chief executive.
It could indicate a change in the tides under Richard Arnold’s leadership, with football director John Murtough spearheading recruitment with Ten Hag after several high-profile exits along with Woodward. Liverpool’s recent recruitment, and the success that has followed, may well have acted as the inspiration for such a change.
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Unlike Vitinha, Diogo Jota widely impressed at Wolves after joining from Porto in 2017. However, no one likely predicted how quickly the 24-year-old would adapt to Liverpool after his 2020 arrival, posing as Klopp’s first-choice striker for large parts of the last two seasons.
Liverpool somewhat took a risk splashing £45m on Jota two years ago rather than a more household name to challenge Manchester City at the Premier League summit. But last term, the Portugal international registered 21 goals and six assists in all competitions and still isn’t the finished article.
Vitinha recovered from his struggles at Wolves to also show plenty of promise throughout 2021-22, becoming a crucial figure at Porto as they lifted the league-cup double in Portugal. His calmness on the ball and relentless pressing off make it easy to see why Ten Hag is interested in adding him to his engine room at Old Trafford.
Of course, it’s far easier to settle into a thriving team like Liverpool than a side at the start of a significant rebuild in Ten Hag’s United. But Klopp has used his coaching ability to make new signings even better at Anfield, and the Dutchman has boasted similar capabilities at Ajax.
Vitinha would be even more of a risk than Jota, sure, especially given his previous disappointment in the English top-flight. But it’s time United steer away from making every signing marquee and trust their head coach to develop the players he wants to recruit. Vitinha would be an exciting start.
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