The £15m bargain Man Utd transfer who could give Luke Shaw a run for his money

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Manchester United have been linked with a 20-year-old wing-back - but would signing him this summer make sense?

It’s only a year since Bournemouth signed a little-known left-back from Dutch side AZ Alkmaar for around £15m – now Milos Kerkez is being linked with an unlikely move to Old Trafford, with Manchester United said to be interested in signing the Hungarian this summer.

Left-back has emerged as a slightly surprising priority for United’s transfer team, with a new player sought despite the club having Luke Shaw, Tyrell Malacia and Diogo Dalot already on the books – but the club want to sign exciting young players to form the backbone of the next generation at the club, and 20-year-old Kerkez has apparently caught the eye. But is he really ready to compete with Shaw for a place in the starting line-up?

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The more immediate comparison is probably with Malacia, but given that the Dutchman spent the entirety of last season on the treatment table thanks to a serious knee injury, comparisons wouldn’t be very fair right now – and interest in a new left-back may well signal concerns about the impact that injury has had. But Shaw remains the gold standard down the left, both for United and England, and displacing him won’t be easy.

Most Bournemouth fans will cheerfully tell you that Kerkez is a lot of fun to watch, and he’s suited Andoni Iraola’s attacking system, which places a lot of emphasis on aggressive wing-back play, down to a tee. He took a couple of months to settle into the Premier League, but once he got there he was consistently impressive at both ends of the pitch.

His speed and willingness to run himself into the ground meant he was both able to get into dangerous positions out wide with the ball and to mop up at left-back when tracking back – and the numbers he put up for successful tackles, interceptions and clearances compare very well indeed to those of Shaw. Shaw has better judgement in the tackle and reads the game exceptionally well, but then his extra experience means he will always have an edge there. In terms of raw potential, one could argue that Kerkez has shown enough to suggest he can catch up quickly.

The fact the he has an extra burst of pace compared to the former Southampton man helps, too, but it’s really the fact that he’s developing into a strong attacking wing-back which sets him apart from his potential rival. The only issue so far is that for all the threatening areas Kerkez gets himself in for the Cherries, the production isn’t quite there – his final ball or shot aren’t polished and he can be wasteful in good positions.

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That explains why Shaw generated around half as many shooting chances again for his team last season compared to Kerkez despite the fact that Kerkez got more touches in advanced positions. Just one in five of Kerkez’s crosses found their target. Shaw is less swashbuckling that his counterpart on the attack, but has the extra nous and quality of delivery to ensure that he makes more of his opportunities to get forward.

The outlets who are reporting United’s interest in the Bournemouth man – which includes Fabrizio Romano - have yet to muster up an asking price, which makes assessing the value of a deal tricky. Presumably Bournemouth would want to make a substantial profit on their £15m outlay, and while United are going to spend big one way or the other this summer, it’s hard to gauge how much of a priority left-back should be.

If they can’t reinforce on the right and Malacia’s fitness is a serious concern, then they will certainly need another warm body in that position at least, and Kerkez’s youth and potential make him a tempting target. But there are pressing needs at centre-half, in midfield and up front to address too. And while Kerkez has been very promising this season, a total return of no goals and one assist wouldn’t typically be considered enough for such an attacking wing-back at a high-level team.

It's also worth remembering that while it feels as though Shaw has been around for decades, he is still just 28 and even with a patchy injury history, he’s likely to have a few good years left in him. Kerkez, if signed, could easily be second fiddle for three or four years, and that’s if he can win the battle with Malacia to back Shaw up.

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This seems like a potentially strange signing – not because Kerkez isn’t a genuinely exciting prospect with plenty of quality and a high ceiling, but because it seems like the kind of player that United just don’t have an urgent requirement for. But perhaps they simply see the Hungarian’s ceiling as being so high that he is a player they should buy come what may.

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