Man Utd must sign unexpected Varane replacement after THREE YEARS of transfer interest

Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith
  • 25 Feb 2024 16:11 GMT
  • 4 min read
Erik ten Hag, Man Utd, 2023/24

Manchester United’s pursuit of a new centre-back has seen them identify Jarrad Branthwaite, Jean-Clair Todibo and Bremer as their three priority targets ahead of the summer transfer window.

Erik ten Hag has been dealt a tough hand with regards to Lisandro Martinez’s availability over the past 12 months and the Red Devils are now desperate to sign at least one new central defender amid the Argentine’s injury problems and Raphael Varane’s potential summer exit.

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The France international has been heavily linked with a move to the Saudi Pro League in 2024 and if he does leave, then two centre-backs may arrive at Old Trafford during the summer transfer window.

While one may be a more established name, Man Utd would be wise to sign a cheaper, long-term project too.

One player who fits this profile perfectly is Peterborough United’s Ronnie Edwards.

Edwards, 20, has been a regular at Peterborough for the past three years and he is regarded as one of the EFL’s most talented players, regardless of position or age.

The fact he made 34 appearances in the Championship during his debut senior campaign is testament to Edwards’ immense maturity and composure, while Man Utd’s interest in his services dates all the way back to 2021.

The Red Devils have been scouting the Englishman for three years and his form this season has been exemplary. Edwards is coolness personified in possession of the ball and his comfortability playing out from the back combined with his natural defensive instincts suggests that a Premier League move wouldn’t be too big a jump, despite the fact he is currently plying his trade in League One.

What has been said about Ronnie Edwards?

Back in 2021, when Man Utd’s interest was first known, Peterborough director Barry Fry told the Peterborough Telegraph: “Ronnie is a Rolls Royce. We knew that when we signed him.

“I used to watch a lot of under 18s football at Barnet as well as Posh and I told the gaffer about him. And when we brought him in for a game Darren watched him for 20 minutes and told me to sign him.

"Spurs were watching him at the time and Brentford were very keen on him. In fact Brentford were so upset when we did the deal they complained to the FA!

Ronnie Edwards, Peterborough
© IMAGO - Ronnie Edwards, Peterborough

“It’s no secret how highly Ronnie is rated by other clubs and by the England set up. We had 18 Premier League scouts watching him play for the under 23s at our stadium.

“Ronnie is money in the bank for the club. He’s a certainty to have an outstanding career in the game, but there’s no better place, and no better manager than Darren Ferguson, to help him develop quickly.

“We want to thrive and prosper in the Championship so selling our better players is not an option.

“There will come a time when we can’t stand in his way as he’d make life-changing money like Ivan Toney as a Premier League player."

“He is so calm and composed and his passing is unbelievably accurate.”

Signing a player straight from League One would be a huge gamble for a club of Man Utd’s size and aspirations, but Edwards is clearly far too good for the level he is currently playing at.

While he wouldn’t be able to contribute immediately in the Red Devils senior side, a season-long loan move away could help him adapt to a higher level of football and prepare him for a role in Man Utd’s first-team.

Ultimately, if Man Utd continue to put off signing Edwards, he will join another club and his value will skyrocket immediately.

Edwards’ Estimated Transfer Value stands at a mere €3.6m and while it will cost a far higher fee to sign him from Peterborough, purchasing him in 2024 could look like a masterstroke in a few years time.

He played a key role in England's U19 Euros triumph in 2022, starring alongside Liverpool's Jarell Quansah at the back, with Chelsea's Carney Chukwuemeka, Bournemouth's Alex Scott and Borussia Dortmund's Jamie Bynoe-Gittens also in the starting XI for the win over Israel in the final.

Edwards is among England's most talented youngsters and his current rise suggests a Premier League move will happen within the next 18 months. If Man Utd are sensible, they will sign him this summer.

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