Mauricio Pochettino Man United transfer dream possible with obvious Casemiro replacement available

Former Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino
-Credit: (Image: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

In all competitions this season Manchester United's most regular midfield option was academy graduate Scott McTominay. For a team that has spent such vast amounts on making significant change in the position, it is a reminder of the woeful inefficiency that has marred the club in recent years.

Bruno Fernandes - really deemed an attacker - has over 30% more minutes than McTominay, whilst summer loanee Sofyan Amrabat failed to play half the amount of the United captain. Christian Eriksen managed even less. Mason Mount started nine games fewer than Jonny Evans, and teenage prodigy Kobbie Mainoo racked up more minutes than Antony despite not making his debut until December.

It was not only quality in the centre of the park that Erik ten Hag missed for most of the season, but also availability. The injury issues have been well documented and hit the midfield extremely hard as well as the backline.

There is no surprise then, especially after Casemiro's form nose-dived in the second half of the season, that United are being linked with new midfielders this summer. Although Mount will be expected to play more in his second term at the club and Mainoo will also be an option (barring injury) from the get-go, there remain questions over 32-year-old Eriksen and McTominay's best role.

Whether there is a change in head coach or not - and the Manchester Evening News understands that no decision over Ten Hag's future has been made - there will be attention on the centre of the park. Be it the Dutchman or not, one glaringly obvious opportunity is Conor Gallagher.

The 24-year-old Chelsea man is out of contract in 12 months time and no progress has been made towards signing an extension. In fact, he has been up for sale pretty much since he returned from loan at Crystal Palace in 2022. Everton and the Eagles have made permanent offers for him in the meantime, and Chelsea have done little to suggest they want to keep him.

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Conversely, those running the recruitment department actively want him out due to the value he has as an academy player. On the books he would be 'pure profit' and is one of the more sellable assets.

All of this comes despite Mauricio Pochettino making him an integral part of his team at Stamford Bridge in the last nine months. Gallagher played more than any other Chelsea player last season, racking up 50 appearances in all competitions (out of 51 games) and a staggering 3,100 Premier League minutes.

Most of those were also as captain due to the injury turmoil for Reece James and others. Across all competitions he managed over 4,000 minutes. That is bettered only by Andre Onana, Diogo Dalot, and Fernandes at United for 2023/24.

No deeper midfielder comes close to this level of game time. From a purely fitness perspective there's logic to exploring a deal. Compared to other expensive alternatives Gallagher's price has been set at a moderate £40million.

Regardless of the possible Pochettino appointment - he has been linked with an immediate return to management should Ten Hag depart Old Trafford, and is also said to be open to the job - Gallagher is a player that is understandably on the radar of top clubs. Tottenham are known admirers whilst Aston Villa and their new draw of Champions League football have their own plans.

This for United is a bit of a no-brainer though. Gallagher is far more than just his physical components. He has taken his game on the ball to new levels in the last 12 months and is a reliable performer when moving possession from the edge of his own box and into the attacking third as well.

His pressing remains relentless and goalscoring streaks are common. Able to cover ground, intercept, use possession wisely, and provide intangible qualities on top, there are many strings to his bow.

There isn't such a thing as a banker in modern football but Gallagher's performances at every stage of his career - from an energetic marauding sprint-machine at Charlton in League One to box-crashing No.8 in Palace colours, and now leading his boyhood club during a turbulent season - make him as much of a solid option as there can be.

It shouldn't take Pochettino to draw United to him, but if the duo were to be reunited in Manchester this summer then far worse pieces of business could be done.