Manchester United intend to rival Arsenal for Declan Rice after David Moyes admitted the midfielder was likely to leave West Ham this summer.
Arsenal have been leading the race to sign Rice and are still regarded as his likeliest destination. They have been laying the groundwork before a bid and the 24-year-old is interested in playing for Mikel Arteta.
However Arsenal’s hopes could be hit if a bidding war for Rice develops, with West Ham indicating they want at least £100m for their captain. Arsenal could be reluctant to reach those figures and there are growing indications that United are planning to step up their interest.
That has been bubbling away behind the scenes but there is no guarantee United will bid for Rice. Erik ten Hag’s priority is to sign a number 9 and his main target is Tottenham’s Harry Kane. Getting the England captain out of Spurs will not be easy or cheap.
Another focus for United will be adding more physicality to their midfield. They are interested in Chelsea’s Mason Mount and Mateo Kovacic. Rice would be much more expensive. United could need to sell players to compete for him, but their interest is growing.
West Ham are desperate to keep Rice for another season but know they are fighting a losing battle. Rice’s contract expires next year, with the option of an extra year, and he has no intention of signing an extension. He wants to play in the Champions League and compete for major honours.
It seems that the best outcome for West Ham, who are closing in on Premier League safety, would be for Rice to help them win the Europa Conference League. They are 2-1 up against AZ Alkmaar before the second leg of their semi-final in the Netherlands on Thursday. West Ham are chasing their first major trophy since 1980 and winning the Conference League would qualify them for the Europa League.
Rice would be able to leave on a high and Moyes has acknowledged there is a good chance he will leave. “We honestly hope he stays,” the manager said. “We’d love for him to be a West Ham player but we are aware that might not be the case at the end of the season. So that’s one of the scenarios around planning. There are plans that we have Dec here but we’re also fully aware there is a good chance we won’t have him.”
West Ham are paying close attention to how much Borussia Dortmund receive if they sell Jude Bellingham. Chelsea have been monitoring Rice but are unlikely to buy him. Newcastle have the funds to enter the race and could be an attractive proposition if they qualify for the Champions League.
Meanwhile, Marcus Rashford is a major doubt for Manchester United’s match against Wolves on Saturday, handing Erik ten Hag a new injury headache just as Raphael Varane returns after a month out.
Ten Hag said that Rashford, United’s top scorer this season with 29 goals, is struggling with a leg injury and is “more than doubtful” to play in a fixture United need to win to keep Liverpool at bay in the fight for a top-four place.
The injury comes at a time when United have been struggling for goals anyway, with only six in their last nine games.
“He’s a big question mark for tomorrow but we are happy Rafa is back,” the manager said.
Varane has been out since being forced off at half-time in the first leg of United’s Europa League quarter-final against Sevilla at Old Trafford on April 13th, and United have won only two of their seven games without the Frenchman.
“He has experience, he knows how to win and will lead us in how to win, he will guide us,” Ten Hag said.
After an often indifferent season Liverpool have won six league matches in a row to close to within a point of United, albeit having played one game more.
United have offered Jurgen Klopp’s men hope by losing back-to-back games 1-0 to Brighton and West Ham, but Ten Hag insisted he had no interest in Liverpool’s form.
“Of course we can ignore it,” he said. “Why not? Because it’s not important. We have everything in our hands and as long as we have things in our hands, so we are in control, as long as that, we are not dependent on them. We are dependent on ourselves.”
Liverpool do not play until Monday when they head to struggling Leicester, by which point United will hope to have a four-point cushion.