There’s been a big emphasis in recent weeks on the need to add further quality to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad.
Manchester United splashed out over £120million on Jadon Sancho, Raphael Varane and Cristiano Ronaldo in the summer, yet a lack of a new midfielder was a glaring omission.
The club’s recent underwhelming form – just one win across their last four matches – has increased the calls from supporters for extra reinforcements.
It’d be unfair to say United lack quality in the midfield department, with Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba amongst the league’s elite. However, their best work comes inside the final third, and behind them, there’s an imbalance.
None of Fred, Nemanja Matic, Scott McTominay nor Donny van de Beek represent the truly elite athletic defensive midfielder that the squad craves.
The club has consequently been linked with a host of potential players who fit the bill, yet it’s AC Milan’s Franck Kessie that is perhaps the current standout candidate.
The highly-rated midfielder is a key player for the Serie A giants, yet a window of opportunity for United comes in that his current contract is due to expire in the summer, and as of yet, he’s nowhere close to agreeing on an extension.
This means he’s able to sign a pre-contract agreement with foreign clubs from January.
From a United standpoint, Kessie possesses a lot of the traits they’d be looking for. He’s quick, strong, mobile, press resistant but also good in possession.
He boasted a pass success rate of 88.9 per cent last season, despite playing a wide range of different short or penetrating balls into more valuable areas on the pitch. Furthermore, only Pogba from United’s current crop of midfielders attempted more dribbles per 90 than the Milan man last season.
Kessie netted a standout 14 league goals last season, a remarkable number and not one you’d expect from a player predominantly operating in deeper areas of the pitch. Yet it’s important to note that 11 came from penalties.
Therefore, don’t anticipate a repeat should he make the switch to Old Trafford. Instead, expect to see him be an aggressive protective presence in the middle, pressing opponents, breaking up attacks and sweeping up danger ahead of the defence.
A further trait that compliments all of the above is his general ability to stay fit. United currently find themselves in somewhat of a defensive crisis with key players such as Varane and Harry Maguire sidelined through injury.
Whilst the nature of football means that injuries can’t always be preempted, it’s worth noting that Kessie ranked inside the top 12 midfielders across Europe’s top five leagues in terms of the highest number of minutes played last season.
Given not only his profile but also his position in terms of his contract and subsequent availability, he’s got to be one of United’s leading targets across the coming months.