Manchester United might already have their Declan Rice alternative
Manchester United want a number 6 and plan to change their tactics to 4-3-3 this season with the West Ham United and England star their preferred target to enable the switch
Manchester United's search for a new defensive midfielder may just have gone up in the priority ranks.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has revealed plans to his players that he intends to move away from the 4-2-3-1 system that has served him so well during his tenure at the club so far, as he looks to go to a more attacking 4-3-3 system to get more attack-minded players on the pitch at one time.
That means that we're likely to see the end of the 'McFred' duo of Scott McTominay and Fred, but there is still likely to be space for at least one of them in the side.
United are keen to sign a defensive midfielder, with West Ham's Declan Rice touted as the number one target for the position. However with a £90m+ asking price on his head, that seems incredibly unlikely to happen barring a swift change of events during the summer.
Eduardo Camavinga has also been linked with the position, although it's believed that the 18-year-old French prospect prefers to stay in France with Paris Saint-Germain or move to Spain in the near future.
Options become slimmer and of lower quality as you go down the list and that could lead to Manchester United looking closer to home for the answer to their issues. Nemanja Matic would have been the perfect man for the position once upon a time, but he'll be 33 by the time the season starts and his best days are long behind him.
Youngsters James Garner and Ethan Galbraith are also possible options, but their lack of first-team experience is certainly a factor that goes against them and both are more likely to go out on loan than step up to the first-team during this campaign.
That leaves both members of the McFred duo to battle it out for the final spot, and it's the Scot who should get the nod from Solskjaer.
To play as the sole defensive midfielder, you need athleticism, intelligence, ability on the ball and most importantly a presence physically. While McTominay can definitely be better on the ball, his positioning is at a good starting point while physically he is incredibly imposing.
He's happy picking the ball up in tight areas and has shown in the past an ability to break the opposition press with dribbling, something the top defensive midfielders in the world are all comfortable doing too.
He has the energy to clean up behind the two more offensive midfielders in the team, likely to be Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes from the current squad. He will need coaching on the positioning aspect of the game, but there weren't many better at their peak than Michael Carrick who is now part of the staff at Old Trafford.
He could stand to become braver with his passing too and that may prove to be necessary with a more attacking approach desired, but he's also better on the ball than Fred is.
Ideally United will sign a defensive midfielder who fits the role better and McTominay can play in his preferred and more effective number eight role, going from box-to-box and adding a threat in the opposition box as well as protection of his own.
But there is a player there who can be moulded into any sort of midfielder with the right type of coaching and the right setup around him. At 24 years old, he has played as a striker for the youth team, played in midfield regularly for Manchester United and even played in defence on a regular basis for his country.
He is adaptable and a willing learner and has admitted in the past that playing as a centre-back comes as "second nature" because of how often he has played there for Scotland. If he can combine the centre-back role with his usual midfield role to become a holding midfielder, United will be able to rest easy should they not secure themselves a defensive midfielder this summer.
It would buy them a year to scour the market, seek new targets and secure funds to get the deal done in January or next summer and also give McTominay a chance to grow as a player for them. It's a win-win for everyone.