‘Tenacious’ star becomes new No 1 Man Utd target as Ratcliffe cools interest in £100m ace

Manchester United and INEOS chief Sir Jim Ratcliffe has switched transfer targets as he tries to elevate the club’s midfield, with a report claiming Morten Hjulmand is now firmly in his sights.

Hjulmand is a 24-year-old defensive midfielder who can also operate in the No 8 and No 10 roles if required. He spent time in the Copenhagen academy before testing himself out abroad at Austrian side Admira Wacker and then Lecce.

Hjulmand went on to establish himself as a key player for Lecce and even became their captain.

Last summer, the midfield enforcer took the next step in his career by joining Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon for €19.5million.

Hjulmand has enjoyed a successful debut season in Portugal, having made 49 appearances in all competitions and helped Ruben Amorim’s side win the league and reach the final of the Portuguese Cup.

But Hjulmand’s time at Sporting could be short. He was tipped to join Liverpool amid their talks with Amorim, but the Reds instead opted to bring in Arne Slot as their new head coach.

Instead, a big transfer to Man Utd has emerged as a possibility. It was revealed earlier in the season that Man Utd recruitment chiefs are fans of the Dane and are keeping tabs on his situation.

As per an update from GiveMeSport, Hjulmand has now rocketed up Ratcliffe’s wanted list and is now the No 1 target for Man Utd to strengthen their defensive midfield ranks.

Man Utd transfers: Morten Hjulmand a top target

Ratcliffe views Hjulmand as a ‘priority’ signing for Man Utd and this could see the British billionaire schedule talks with Sporting to try and strike a deal.

Hjulmand, who has been labelled a ‘tenacious’ and ‘intelligent’ midfielder by Breaking the Lines’ scout report, has a long-term contract with Sporting which runs for another four years.

But Sporting could be convinced to sell the five-cap international if Man Utd bid £69m for him. Such a deal would see Sporting make over £45m in profit, after all.

£69m is clearly a lot of money to pay for a player who has never featured in England before. However, it could be argued that a swoop for Hjulmand makes more sense than a move for his Primeira Liga rival Joao Neves.

Ratcliffe has previously identified Benfica starlet Neves as a prime candidate to protect Man Utd’s back four next season.

But Benfica want to keep their academy graduate for a few more years and could resultantly hold out for his entire £102m release clause before signing off on his exit.

Neves is only 19 years of age, and while he has fantastic potential, that potential £102m outlay would come with huge risk.

Hjulmand, in comparison, is five years older than Neves and is already a leader, which is exactly what the Red Devils need. And Hjulmand’s lower cost has made him far more appealing to Ratcliffe than Neves.

Man Utd’s current defensive midfielder is Casemiro, but he has just endured a tough campaign.

After being told to immediately end his career at the top level by Jamie Carragher, Casemiro is now likely to join Cristiano Ronaldo at Al-Nassr.

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