Given that Manchester United have been chasing one of the planet’s biggest and most famous talents in their attempts to improve their midfield this summer, it’s perhaps no surprise that stories regarding a player other than Paul Pogba may struggle to make much impact as the club finalise this year’s biggest transfer.
Yet a report regarding Besiktas midfielder Oğuzhan Özyakup has appeared on Turkish site Fanatik. It suggests that Jose Mourinho has instructed his Manchester United bosses to complete a deal worth $22.3m (or a very reasonable £16.7m) with the Super Lig club.
The price quoted appears quite reasonable, with £16m a small fraction of the money that United are reported to be paying Juventus for Pogba’s services. Özyakup is actually a former Arsenal academy product, originally from AZ Alkmaar who moved to Besiktas in 2012, and notched 10 goals and 8 assists in 40 appearances for the Istanbul club. He has also been linked with a return back to Arsenal but reports claim Mourinho is hopeful of beating the Gunners to his signing. According to the report, so interested has Mourinho been in the player that he contacted West Ham United manager Slaven Bilic, who looked after the player whilst in charge of Besiktas.
The numbers above are impressive enough, especially given how meagre United’s midfield contributions were in front of goal, so a more creative presence in the centre of the park would be welcome. At 23 years old, Özyakup still has plenty of time to develop and progress, and given his emergence in the Turkish national side, he has a good platform on which to improve.
However, from United’s perspective, such a deal seems a little unlikely, not least of which because Mourinho is particularly well stocked in midfield. Having sanctioned another one-year deal for Michael Carrick, stated a desire to retain Marouane Fellaini (as per The Independent’s Mark Ogden) and not moved on either Ander Herrera or Morgan Schneiderlin, Mourinho’s behaviour this summer suggests that he’s happy with the majority of the options that he already has in midfield.
With Bastian Schweinsteiger seemingly on his way out of United, and Pogba replacing him in the squad, United have plenty of options in central midfield and would likely struggle to find a place for Özyakup unless another of the players listed above were sold, something which currently looks unlikely given rumours of a move for Herrera and Schneiderlin inparticular have been non-existent over the summer, with both players seemingly focussed on becoming a vocal point in Mourinho’s plans. It begs the question of how often Özyakup would play given United’s current options in the centre of the park, as the 23 year old would want to start most games available having enjoyed such a productive term last season. As such, a deal for Özyakup, no matter now intriguing, feels unlikely.