Why James Maddison is the perfect transfer target for the Manchester United recruitment department

Manchester Evening News Sports 3 weeks ago

The new criteria for a prospective Manchester United signing is they are humble, respectful off the pitch but arrogant in the shirt. And that they have an X-factor.

Darren Fletcher was the curious name plucked out to illustrate how broad that term stretches. Daley Blind and Morgan Schneiderlin were cited as the antithesis of United's desirable X-factor contestants. The Jedwards, if you can remember that duo.

The humble and respectful demand is partly in reference to taking pride in appearance, down to the small detail of a top button being done up when a player dons the Paul Smith club suit.

James Maddison's was open when he arrived at the King Power Stadium on Saturday and he was sporting white trainers. His greatest sartorial crime was he appeared to be sockless.

Already there is a perception Maddison, 22, is a bit flash. Speaking to those who know him, they are adamant his appearance is deceiving. Say what you will about the carved side-parting, sleeve tattoo and see-through Louis Vuitton backpack, but the swagger makes Maddison one of the most exciting young attackers on the continent.

 

Sources close to Maddison accept his appearance in a casino that coincided with an England qualifier he withdrew from was an unflattering look, but insist he will learn. He has not played Premier League football for 18 months and reported for England duty only three times.

Forget how much the LV bag cost, what mattered was what was tucked away inside it as he left Leicester's ground last month. "I've just seen him stuffing the MOM trophy in it too," Ben Chilwell tweeted.

Maddison was the matchwinner and the man of the match in their 2-1 comeback against Tottenham and Leicester have made good on plenty of pundits' predictions they are the upstarts to break into the top six.

United are already seven points adrift of Leicester and had to baton down the hatches to secure a 1-0 win against them at Old Trafford last month. The hype surrounding Leicester appeared to cow them that day but they have since beaten Spurs and were denied a point at Anfield by a contentious penalty decision. Maddison struck in both.

James Maddison arrives at Old Trafford - with Leicester

The United assistant Mike Phelan used to tell Michael Carrick the player, 'be arrogant when you play'. Maddison is an extrovert unlikely to require such a basic instruction as the more introverted Carrick did. Phelan, involved in United's recruitment and present at their monthly meetings, has contacts at Maddison's former club Norwich.

Not that Maddison would require much convincing. He is a boyhood United supporter, close with former club colleague Harry Maguire and no, it was not his social media manager who sent that clapping emoji to Marcus Rashford on Instagram after the Liverpool draw. United believe their England contingent hold sway and Chilwell is another on their radar.

Solskjaer, Phelan and the United recruitment department have settled on a young and British transfer strategy and determined 23 is the perfect age to sign a player. Conveniently, Maddison turns 23 next month and would offer the 'creativity and goals' Solskjaer is seeking to sharpen the attack.

 

United negotiated Leicester's asking price for Maguire down from £90million to £80m and he had four years to run on his deal, whereas Maddison would have three come the summer. Perhaps only United's league position could scupper a move for Maddison next year if Leicester re-enter the Champions League.

The rate of inflation is against United, too. Leicester obtained £60m for Riyad Mahrez in 2018 and Maddison could command £100m next year. Ed Woodward did say: "What's important is the commercial side is never allowed to take priority over the football side."

Old Trafford has hosted X-Factor before, though.


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