Man United interested in £68m-rated youngster

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Old Trafford

If you aren't already acquainted with Sevilla's Jules Kounde, it's a name you're probably going to be hearing frequently in the near future. 

The Daily Mail has described him as one of the best centre-back prospects in Europe and was targeted by Manchester City last summer before they ended up signing Ruben Dias instead. 

And the British newspaper now claims that Manchester United retain an interest in the 22-year-old, although they're unwilling to meet his £68m release clause. 

The Red Devils are keen to improve their squad and have identified centre-back as a priority position.

However, they don't intend on paying huge fees for players in the summer and instead expect price-tags to become more realistic as a consequence of the financial impact of the ongoing global crisis. 

Nonetheless, it seems Sevilla will be somewhat firm in their valuation of Kounde, with director Monchi already revealing publicly that he turned down a 'magnificent' offer from City last summer.

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Whether Kounde is the right player, or will be attainable for the right price, remains a matter of debate. 

Nonetheless, it's clear that United need to find an ideal centre-back partner for Harry Maguire this summer if they're serious about challenging for the Premier League title. It's a crucial ingredient Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side is lacking when compared to previous Premier League title winners.

Liverpool secured last season's title with Joe Gomez partnering Virgil van Dijk at centre-half more often than not.

Before that, Aymeric Laporte and Vincent Kompany - albeit the latter rotated depending on fitness - saw out the campaign together for Manchester City's most recent crowning. This term, John Stones and Dias have provided that formidable backbone instead. 

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In fact, from Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister to Robert Huth and Wes Morgan, it's rare for a team to win the Premier League without a well-established, well-functioning centre-back partnership. 

At Old Trafford, though, Victor Lindelof has struggled to convince as a long-term option alongside Maguire. Bailly has impressed in fits and spurts but seems to lack the fitness to be depended upon, and Axel Tuanzebe is a squad option at best.  

United need to find that missing ingredient and while they're understandably deterred by Kounde's price-tag, the recent confirmation of Dayot Upamecano's move to Bayern Munich is a reminder of how limited the pool of available elite centre-backs could be come the summer. 

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