Before the January transfer window began, Manchester United urged supporters to keep a lid on their expectations. After Jim Ratcliffe acquired 25% of the club from the Glazers, there may have been hopes that he’d emphatically announce his arrival, but instead United appear hamstrung by Financial Fair Play requirements.
This may be a result of their heavy spending in recent summer transfer windows. In the last two years, United have ranked third in the Premier League for net outlay – £125m in 2023 and £196m the year before – after high-profile deals for the likes of Antony, Casemiro, Rasmus Hojlund, Mason Mount, Andre Onana and Lisandro Martinez.
All of this means Erik ten Hag doesn’t have much to work with this winter, but by adopting a frugal approach now, United will give themselves more breathing room in the summer, and they’re already planning one big-money deal.
United laying groundwork for Vermeeren deal
According to Football Insider, Man Utd are planning a “mega-money” move for Arthur Vermeeren of Royal Antwerp in the off-season. Vermeeren is attracting interest from a “host of elite European clubs”, but United appear desperate to win the race. They’re said to be “all over” the teenage talent, already in regular contact with his entourage over a summer transfer.
Antwerp are asking for £25m up front for the midfielder, but they’re hoping they can double their potential windfall with a comprehensive package of performance-related add-ons.
Vermeeren can do everything for United
Vermeeren made his full league debut for Antwerp in November 2022, and his manager Mark van Bommel quickly observed that he was a “special” player, starting him in every single top-flight match from that point on as Antwerp won the title.
Despite his youth, he’s already established himself as one of the first names on the team sheet this season, with 31 appearances under his belt already. He’s made the XI for all 20 of his side’s Pro League games, and played every minute of their Champions League group-stage campaign, scoring in a win over Barcelona on the final matchday after five straight defeats.
It was only a matter of time before 2022/23 Belgian Young Footballer of the Year made a full debut for his country, and it came in October at the age of 18 years, eight months and six days. That made one of his nation’s 10 youngest debutants this century (and their fourth-youngest midfielder in that period).
A look at the data reveals that Vermeeren already possesses a near-complete midfield skillset. Relative to other players in his position in comparable leagues over the last year, he ranks in the 70th percentile for pass completion (84.3%) and is particularly strong (92nd percentile) for long passes (78.3%).
But he doesn’t just play safe balls in his own territory – he looks to thread passes through gaps in the opposition defensive structure. He sits fifth in his league this season for progressive passes (142) and occupies the top 25 percentiles for passes into the box per 90 minutes (1.13), and live-ball passes leading to a shot attempt (2.28).
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His technical gifts are also clear in his dribbling numbers. He was the third-best in the league for successful take-on percentage (76.2) in his debut season, and he’s a standout for progressive carrying distance (97.3 yards per 90, 79th percentile) and carries into the final third (1.62, 77th percentile) as well.
Crucially, there’s a bite and a discipline to his game too. Despite his late breakthrough in 2022/23, he finished in the top 10 for tackles won (46), and his average of 1.15 blocked passes per 90 (75th percentile) shows that he can be effective for a high-pressing team. If United can sign Vermeeren, they’ll be getting a youngster who’s capable of doing it all in the middle of the park.