West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis has been keenly observing Manchester United’s transfer activity it appears, and The Red Devils’ successful acquisition of Victor Lindelof from Benfica in a £30.8m deal has alerted him to the possibility of swooping in for the England duo of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
Smalling and Jones are set to be relegated down the pecking order with Eric Bailly and new-arrival Lindelof set to take up first-team duties. The 22-year-old Swede is set to wear the number 2 jersey in the upcoming season.
Smalling missed large chunks of last season owing to injury layoffs and came under fire from Jose Mourinho for refusing to play through the pain barrier and taking a deliberately cautious approach on his way to regaining full fitness.
“It’s not just about them. It’s about the philosophy and mentality around them. Cautious. Cautious. Cautious. Just a cautious approach.
“It’s a profile, it’s the philosophy of work. Just that.”
Asked if current players are less than willing to put their fitness to the test and rush through rehabilitation, Mourinho said: “Professional football at a high level? Yeah.”
The Portuguese manager had to run a tight ship at Old Trafford last season due to a spate of injuries to first-team players and United at a time were devoid of the services of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
Smalling managed to hold down a place in the United first eleven in the somewhat turbulent period that followed after Sir Alex Ferguson retired. The 27-year-old could find it difficult to compete for first team places in Jose Mourinho’s new-look United. The Old Trafford outfit has had a busy transfer window already with a significant outlay over the signings of Lindelof and Lukaku, and more to follow.
Tony Pulis is ambitious in his grand design to bring in Jones and Smalling to West Brom. Both of them have two years left on their contract and wouldn’t come cheap if United were persuaded to sell. The Red Devils have spent money to the tune of £100m at least, already with Lindelof costing a reported £31m and Lukaku a minimum of £75m excluding agent fees et al. Adnan Januzaj has been sold to Real Sociedad for a fee of £9.8m and Rooney is set to ply his trade at his boyhood club, Everton for an undisclosed fee, but believed to be in the region of £10m.
With the possibility of £40m rated Nemanja Matic and the Alvaro Morata transfers still in play, United could be open to balancing the books to an extent, by selling either of Smalling or Jones, if not both, at the right price.
Pulis is reportedly also interested in cutting a loan deal for Chelsea’s Kurt Zouma who has had a difficult time finding form after his injury layoff and could benefit from more regular game time, especially under a manager like Pulis whose teams are defensively solid and very hard to break down.
It remains to be seen if The Baggies’ board are willing to shell out the dough for a double swoop on the England pair.
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