It seems fair to say that Manchester United are not quite the European powerhouses they used to be during Sir Alex Ferguson’s time in charge of the club. The Red Devils have experienced a steady decline in the years following the Scottish legend’s departure and now face a tough battle to simply make the Premier League’s top four between now and the end of the season.
United currently occupy fourth place in the table but have endured a disappointing campaign on all fronts and sit just two points ahead of seventh-placed Tottenham.
There have been plenty of forgettable moments to illustrate their fall from grace in recent months, with their five-goal home drubbing at the hands of Liverpool and their FA Cup defeat to Middlesbrough on Friday serving as particular lowlights.
One thing United have always enjoyed, though, is the pulling power to attract the world’s best players due to their status as one of the planet’s biggest clubs.
They managed to snap up the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho over the summer despite having failed to win a trophy since they clinched the Europa League title in 2017.
However, it seems as though the tide may finally be turning, with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City now better-placed to land the game’s biggest talents at United’s expense.
Take the example of Declan Rice, who has been heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford since breaking through at West Ham back in 2018.
The England ace has long been on United’s radar and was widely tipped to join the Red Devils over the summer when they were on the lookout for a new deep-lying midfielder to shore up their ranks in the middle of the park.
However, a move for his services never materialised and it now appears as though Chelsea may be his preferred destination ahead of next season.
Rice is waiting to find out the level of interest from the Blues before entertaining the idea of joining United, according to the Daily Mail.
West Ham are said to be looking for a transfer fee of around £100million, which United should face no difficulty in paying as one of the world’s richest clubs.
However, it seems as though they could be denied by Rice himself if he decides to snub the nine-time European champions in favour of a return to Chelsea.
He is known to be a fan of the Blues despite being released by the club as a teenager and spends most of his free time in Kingston-upon-Thames, just a stone’s throw from Stamford Bridge.
That said, a player of his calibre would not have thought twice about playing for the Red Devils under Ferguson, with his hesitancy serving as a harsh reminder of the club’s decline in recent years.
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It remains to be seen whether they can fight back over the next few years as they look to re-establish themselves as the front runners of English and European football once again.
There still appears to be plenty of work to do on a number of fronts at Old Trafford in order to right their wrongs and rekindle their formidable reputation of old.
United are currently reeling from a number of off-field problems, with murmurs of internal discontent and the recent situation involving Mason Greenwood doing little to alleviate their growing list of issues.
It will be crucial for these factors to be dealt with between now and the end of the season in order to stand any chance of landing Rice ahead of Chelsea when the time comes to firm up their interest in the summer.
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