With the January transfer window now open, there has been the usual flurry of speculation surrounding Manchester United, as the case always is with a club of this size. United have been linked to a number of players, but one rumour which refuses to die down is their perceived pursuit of Sporting Lisbon midfielder and captain, Bruno Fernandes.
While the Portuguese international was linked with United during the summer transfer window as well, there seems to be more substance behind these rumours this time around. United are reportedly negotiating the finer details of a potential deal worth up to €65 million, with €15 million in add-ons, and the betting markets are reflecting this, with free bets.com showing odds as low as 1/16 for this transfer to go through by the end of the window, showing that bookmakers are quite certain that Fernandes will be a Red Devil at some point this month.
United have been consistently inconsistent this season – their last five games in the league have seen three wins and two losses, while they just about sneaked past Wolves in the FA Cup, drawing the initial game and then winning the replay at Old Trafford via a Juan Mata goal. They come up against runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool at Anfield this evening, with a 27-point gap between the rivals at the moment. United are in fifth place, level on points with Wolves and five points behind Chelsea, who lost to Newcastle United yesterday. The Red Devils thus have the chance to close the gap to the Blues and make a concerted push for the Champions League places, but it will be a Herculean task against a Liverpool side who have gone 38 games unbeaten in the league now.
Manchester United are the only side to have taken points from Liverpool this season, with a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford earlier this season being the only occasion this season when Liverpool have not won a game in the league. The away side will be without their top goalscorer Marcus Rashford, who is rumoured to have suffered a stress fracture in his back. The English forward has scored 14 goals in the league this season to be third on the goalscoring charts, behind Jamie Vardy and Sergio Agüero and level with Southampton’s Danny Ings. This has been a breakthrough season for Rashford, and a sustained absence due to injury could impact United’s hopes of reaching the top-four, as well as their chances in the Europa League as well. Looking at the bookies, Rashford is priced at 13.00 to win the Golden Boot this season, which now may rise if he is looking at a significant injury-enforced layoff. Manchester United are at 13/2 to win the Europa League in most markets, which could be an attractive price given that they have an easy round-of-32 game against Club Brugge. Their push to finish in the Champions League places is priced at 10/3 or 11/2 at most bookies, reflecting the difficulty of this task.
If Rashford is indeed seriously injured, United will need the likes of Anthony Martial, Daniel James and Mason Greenwood to step up in the goalscoring stakes, while possibly also needing Fernandes to arrive at Old Trafford. The Portuguese international has continued from where he left off last season, with eight goals and seven assists in the Portuguese league from just 16 appearances confirming his ability to both score himself as well as create chances for his teammates. United desperately need an injection of creativity to boost their hopes in the league and in Europe, and Fernandes looks like he will be the man to provide exactly that.