The inspired Man Utd and Everton summer swap deal that could kill two birds with one stone

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The Red Devils have been linked with a swoop for a key Toffees player

The hope endures long after the body is no longer willing. On Sunday, amid the pines and the bunkers of Augusta, Tiger Woods came to tee off for the final round of a tournament that he has won five times. Only Jack Nicklaus has won The Masters on more occasions, but as the most famous golfer in history dragged his stiff, aching frame to bogey after bogey after bogey out on the Georgian greens, the uncomfortable truth limped along in his wake; a sixth jacket of that colour now feels like a distinct impossibility.

Woods - 48 years old and hobbled by the residue of five microdiscectomies on his back, multiple knee surgeries, and a subtalar fusion in his ankle - finished the weekend dead last from those who made the 36-hole cut, a mammoth 16 shots over par. The man himself still speaks openly about his belief that, if the stars somehow align, he has one more wondrous moment left in him. The unwavering glare of common sense dictates otherwise.

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In many respects, Manchester United are the Tiger Woods of the Premier League; the faded sense of inevitability, the insistence that they can still compete even as those around them pull further and further away year after year. Unlike Woods, however, the Red Devils do have it within themselves to turn things around.

A good place to start, of course, would be in the transfer market. With the arrival of enthusiastic investor Sir Jim Ratcliffe, United have been buoyed by promises of a new approach to recruitment - one that aims to place a much greater emphasis on avoiding the ignition of dumpster fires. Chief among Ratcliffe’s targets for the summer window is the acquisition of at least one - maybe two, perhaps even three - defensive reinforcements. Several names have already been mentioned in that regard, but none more vehemently than Everton starlet Jarrad Branthwaite.

The understanding is that United are the most eager of a number of prospective suitors for the 21-year-old, who recently received his first call-up to the senior England squad. At the time of writing, it is reported that his current employers could demand a figure in the region of £70 million before they acquiesce to his exit.

That, as you might have noticed, is quite a lot of money, and while the centre of defence is high on United’s transfer agenda, it is by no means the only position that they are looking to strengthen over the coming months. To that end, if Ratcliffe and his cronies could find a way of driving down the price somewhat, then there would be plenty around Old Trafford who would appreciate the gesture.

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Another key part of United’s much-needed transformation will be the removal of any dead wood. You could argue that since his recent renaissance Harry Maguire no longer falls immediately into that category, but there are still those who have their doubts over the England international. Certainly, even his biggest advocates would have to admit that it is hard to envisage him being an integral presence in Manchester for too much longer.

Maguire will be 32 next birthday, and is out of contract at Old Trafford in June 2025. If the club decide against exercising the one-year extension clause reportedly written into his deal, then there is a very good chance that he will be allowed to leave for nothing in a little over 12 months’ time.

But why let things get to that point? Why not, instead, recognise that United are in need of a complete overhaul, rather than the odd tweak here and there, and use Maguire in a kind of ‘two birds, one stone’ situation that takes him to Everton as a makeweight in any planned swoop for Branthwaite?

That way, United clear some space in the dressing room while still bringing in one of their most prominent summer targets, while the Toffees - strapped for cash as they are - are compensated with a player who would go a long way towards softening the blow of losing such a precocious talent. Provided Sean Dyche’s men can beat the drop this season, it could be something to consider.

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