For all intents and purposes, it appears as if there’s a decent chance that Jose Fonte could become Manchester United’s fifth signing of this summer, if this week’s reports from ESPN are anything to go by.
According to Andy Mitten, Fonte favours a move to Old Trafford over Arsenal, too:
“Jose Mourinho is seeking an experienced defensive leader and club sources told ESPN FC in recent days that United had opened informal talks over 32-year-old Fonte, who could play for Southampton at Old Trafford on Friday night.
However, United need to sell or loan one of their existing central defenders before signing Fonte, with Argentina international Marcos Rojo the player the club are most eager to offload.
United also have Chris Smalling, Eric Bailly, Daley Blind and Phil Jones as centre-back options. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson prefers to play as a central defender, but he maybe sent away from the club on loan by Mourinho.
It’s a quirk of the fixture list that this speculation has played out this week with Southampton travelling up to Manchester this Friday for a Premier League clash, but Saints manager Claude Puel isn’t worried about what effect the interest from United and Arsenal could have on his captain, according to these quotes from the Daily Echo:
He said: “No problem with Jose. Just strange that this rumour just before the game against United. There is a possibility before United, it is strange.
“He’s a professional, he made good training sessions this week and it’s important to have Jose with us and I hope against United.”
He added: “Jose has good experience and is a good professional. I think also he cannot be disturbed for this story and this rumour. For me it’s just a rumour and it’s a surprise to see this against United two days before but it’s not a problem. Jose is our captain and it’s important to consider and I’m sure he will be completely ready with us for this game.”
Puel appears relaxed about the situation publicly, at least. Perhaps because Southampton have refused to sell such an influential figure at the club having already lost Saido Mane to Liverpool this summer. First thing’s first; United have to offload a central defender to make room for Fonte, as they are currently overstocked on centre backs, even if they don’t have an abundance of quality between the five of them.
Once a space has been made, Fonte could easily become an influential figure for the club, given his leadership and experience. The 32-year old was a key part of Portugal’s successful Euro 2016 campaign, and has played over 200 games for Southampton.