Manchester United ended their six-month long stint in sixth place in the Premier League on Sunday by beating Middlesbrough to go up to fifth.
Jose Mourinho’s men have been slowly but surely eating away at the gap between themselves and the top four, and now they are just four points adrift of Liverpool in fourth after a 3-1 success at Boro, with goals from Marouane Fellaini, Jesse Lingard, and Antonio Valencia extending their unbeaten league run to 18 games.
And it finally saw the Red Devils move out of sixth place in the division, with Mourinho’s men benefitting from Arsenal’s defeat at West Brom to move up to fifth in the table.
And with United also in the last eight of the Europa League, Mourinho’s side have much to play for between now and the end of the season, yet that hasn’t stopped speculation building about who they may look to sign in the summer.
And one man they have been linked with in the recent days is Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti, who has won four Ligue 1 titles with the French giants since moving there in 2012.
However, they look set to face fierce competition from Premier League leaders Chelsea, yet Mourinho and his men simply must beat the Blues to the signing of the 24-year-old.
And that’s because the Italian international has all the hallmarks of becoming Michael Carrick’s long-term successor at Old Trafford.
The former England international turns 36 in the summer, yet is still as important to the team now as he was when he first joined the club back in 2006.
Carrick has the calmness and composure that few central midfielders have, and it’s an area that the likes of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal have tried to strengthen in preparation for the former Spurs man’s retirement, but to no effect.
And that could become a reality this summer as Carrick has yet to agree a new deal at Old Trafford (although that is not unusual given he signed a new deal after the FA Cup final last year), which would leave a huge hole in the middle of the United midfield.
That makes a deal for Verratti even more integral this summer.
The 24-year-old has arguably been PSG’s most impressive performer this term after several outstanding displays, with his vision, eye for a pass, and ability to retain possession under pressure helping Unai Emery’s side to second in Ligue 1, three points adrift of leaders Monaco.
And it’s his trophy-winning experience and European pedigree that would also benefit United.
Mourinho’s men made a slow start to the campaign under the Portuguese, yet improvements have been clear to see, with United winning the League Cup back in February, and giving themselves a chance of further success in the Europa League having reached the last eight.
And with a mere four-point gap to Liverpool in fourth, this term could turn out to be a fine one for United, but more importantly, it sets them up for a greater title bid next season and in campaigns to follow.
That’s why getting a player like Verratti through the door would be crucial, as you still feel that, although they are improving, United are still a few players away from sustaining a challenge to the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham.
Yet Verratti has the experience to go in to Old Trafford and make the midfield spot his own, with he possessing the same sort of commitment and guile as Ander Herrera, as well as the composure of Carrick.
United are entering a new era under Mourinho, and with the potential departure of Carrick this summer, Verratti is a must-buy for the Portuguese and his team in the upcoming transfer window.