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Wilfred Ndidi vs. Idrissa Gueye: Who should Manchester United sign?

00:28 IST 17/06/2019
Ndidi Gueye collage
The Nigeria and Senegal midfielders clashed in an international friendly on Sunday, with both having been linked with a move to Old Trafford

Manchester United will want to quickly forget the 2018-19 season, where they once again became a laughing stock after finishing in an all-too familiar sixth position in the Premier League.

Things were set to improve after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer temporarily took charge following Jose Mourinho’s sacking, winning 14 competitive games out of 17, but it proved not to be as the Red Devils collapsed after their miraculous comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, losing eight times in their remaining 12 games.

The Norwegian – who was eventually given the job on a permanent basis –  thus has a monumental task ahead of him as he attempts to rebuild the Red Devils.

The bulk of the United squad were either average or below par for most of the campaign, and Solskjaer will definitely need to let go of the deadwood so that more energetic, determined and passionate players can take to the field on a regular basis.

The United defense was severely exposed as they conceded a mammoth 54 league goals, their highest since the 1970s. One of the reasons for this was the lack of a solid defensive midfielder that could shield the defence and make crucial interceptions when the opposition is on the break.

Solskjaer likes his side to press, and this means he expects high levels of energy from his midfielders all through the duration of the game.

Nemanja Matic is the main defensive midfielder in the United squad, but he was not at his solid best during the season. He often appeared isolated on the pitch, and subsequently left the defence badly exposed.

The Serbian is already into his 30s, and appears to be a player on the wane.

Two men that Solskjaer could opt for in the transfer window are Wilfred Ndidi and Idrissa Gueye, who went head to head on Sunday as Senegal defeated Nigeria in a pre-Africa Cup of Nations friendly.

Wilfred Ndidi | 2018-19 Premier League stats

The duo were standout players for Leicester City and Everton respectively this term, and proved to be among the most solid and effective defensive midfielders in the Premier League. 

The former has gone from strength to strength with the Foxes, while the latter won the Everton Player’s Player of the Year award.

Strength and agility are among the key assets of Ndidi and Gueye, and it’s no surprise that they made more tackles - 143 and 142 respectively (ranked first and second highest) than Matic with 50 (78th highest).

For interceptions, Ndidi (third highest) made 83, 75 for Gueye (sixth highest), while Matic made just 31 interceptions (the 101st highest).

The duo were in great shape for much of the campaign with Gueye making 33 appearances, all starts, while Ndidi played all 38 league matches, becoming the third Nigerian to achieve that feat after Joseph Yobo and Victor Moses.

Matic, by contrast, picked up an injury just when United appeared to be making inroads into the top four.

Ndidi and Gueye's physical attributes mean they can recover well, while both appear to have attitutes that would suit life at bigger clubs and in different environments.

They're both adaptable, having played under multiple managers in the Premier League and transitioned well in each stint.

Gueye has recently been utilised as a deep lying playmaker, and has earned the praise of Everton legend Tim Cahill, manager Marco Silva and his teammates Morgan Schneiderlin and Chelsea loanee Kurt Zouma.

The most eye-catching thing about these two talented Africans is that they would not command astronomical transfer fees. Ndidi is currently valued around £50 million, while Gueye is priced at £35 million, and both appear to be within United's budget.

They could even represent bargains in today’s hyper inflated transfer market, although both will have the opportunity to tempt any other potential suitors at this summer's Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.

Who knows, perhaps after leaving Cairo with the continental prize, the next task for either of this duo will be to attempting to help United restore their dented reputation.