Why Manuel Ugarte is the perfect Casemiro replacement at Man United

Liverpool also interested 

Why Manuel Ugarte is the perfect Casemiro replacement at Man United

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Manuel Ugarte has emerged as a primary transfer target for Manchester United and Liverpool this summer. According to numerous reports, the 23-year-old midfielder appears surplus to requirements at PSG as he doesn’t fit Luis Enrique’s tactical requirements for a defensive midfielder. As such, a move to the Premier League seemingly beckons. 

Ugarte, currently at Copa America with Uruguay, was PSG’s ninth most used player last season but he’s destined to leave the French Champions this summer after just one season in Paris. The Uruguayan joined PSG from Sporting CP last summer for €60m but his market value dropped by €5m to €45m across that period. It’s understood that PSG will demand any club match the fee they initially paid Sporting to sell Ugarte, with the two aforementioned English giants known admirers.

Who wants to sign Manuel Ugarte?

Manchester United and Liverpool are the two frontrunners to sign Ugarte. The defensive midfielder almost moved to England last summer when Chelsea were interested but the Stamford Bridge side lost out to PSG and subsequently signed Moises Caicedo. Reputable French outlet L’Equipe reported last week that Man United had seen an opening bid rejected by PSG. It’s understood that offer fell well short of the Parisian’s valuation but they are likely to return with an improved offer. Jorgi Chijane – Ugarte’s agent – also name dropped Liverpool as a potential destination in an interview with O Jogo this week. He said: “”Liverpool? There is a lot of talk, but it is not the only club, there are others. It’s almost certain that he won’t stay, it’s sure he’ll leave. I believe the situation will be resolved.” It was also reported in L’Equipe that Juventus and AC Milan have been offered the chance to sign Ugarte. 

Why do Manchester United need a new defensive midfielder? 

Although Liverpool have been mentioned by Ugarte’s agent, Manchester United have the strongest interest in the midfielder. Erik ten Hag is targeting a new No.6 this summer with constant speculation over Casemiro’s future. The Brazilian enjoyed an excellent debut campaign at Old Trafford but he struggled last season and appeared in decline at 32. 

Casemiro was arguably the best defensive midfielder on the planet for several years but he’s been heavily linked with a move to Saudi Arabia and United are eyeing a younger replacement. As the graphic above illustrates, Ugarte is the fourth most valuable defensive midfielder aged 23 or under. United are actively targeting younger talents this summer and they’ve been strongly linked with two other midfielders on that list – João Neves and Amadou Onana. It’s imperative that Ten Hag addresses the imbalances in his tactical set-up that plagued United last season when their defence was badly exposed due to his preference to play transitional football. Only four clubs – Sheffield United, Burnley, Luton and West Ham – faced more shots than United last season and adding a dependable defensive midfielder would make them more solid. 

Why do Manchester United want to sign Manuel Ugarte?

Ugarte certainly fits the bill for United a he’s the right age profile and he’s available at a reasonable price. PSG’s openness to selling Ugarte shouldn’t reflect badly on his ability because it’s mainly due to head coach Enrique’s tactical preferences. Joachim Durand, French Content Manager at Transfermarkt, explains: “Manuel Ugarte does not seem to be Luis Enrique-compatible. His playing time was greatly reduced in the second half of the season. In important matches, the Spanish coach preferred Fabian Ruiz to complete the midfield, and even Kang-in Lee. So he’s no longer an important player, and it wouldn’t be surprising if PSG let him go. But given the amount of money involved, they will no doubt need to make a big offer. He is a solid, aggressive defensive midfielder who is particularly useful in recovering the ball and protecting his defence” 

Is Manuel Ugarte the perfect Casemiro replacement? 

Ugarte has the ideal characteristics to be a major success at United as their defensive midfielder. He possesses the ability to win back possession, he’s tenacious in tackles and comfortable on both feet despite not being the most progressive passer. Ugarte’s presence would provide more freedom to Kobbie Mainoo and Bruno Fernandes and that would represent a well-balanced midfield trio for Ten Hag.

[Player comparison ID1=16306 ID2=476701]

Ugarte, however, doesn’t excel as much in possession as he does defensively and that’s a major reason why Enrique is content to let him leave PSG this season. The Spanish boss wants more technical deep-lying midfielders to progress the ball like Vitinha, Fabian Ruiz and Warren Zaire-Emery. Ugarte ranked 29th for passes per 90 last season in Ligue 1, which is relatively low given PSG dominate possession (64.4% average) and nine of the Uruguayan’s teammates ranked higher. While Ugarte didn’t complete a huge volume of passes, he was intelligent in his passing with a completion success of 91.2%,

With Casemiro expected to leave United this summer, Ugarte appears a ready-made replacement. The graphic above compares their statistics across 90 mins last season and there’s significant similarities in their style of play. Both players are enforcers in the No.6 position but Ugarte outperformed Casemiro in terms of interceptions and tackles. Ugarte is a much safer passer than the Man United star and that’s reflected in their passing statistics, where Ugarte has a higher passing success rate but Casemiro completes more progressive passes. As Casemiro enters the twilight of an outstanding career, Ugarte could represent the ideal replacement to provide some much-needed stability to Man United.

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