Manchester United were given the chance to take a closer look at their reported £100m transfer target Declan Rice during Saturday’s 1-0 win over West Ham at Old Trafford
United were stifled superbly by the Hammers and failed to test Alphonse Areola before a late Marcus Rashford goal rescued Ralf Rangnick’s side.
Rice has played an integral role in West Ham’s stunning start to the season and has helped catapult the East Londoners into the race for a Champions League place.
Given the enormous strides that Rice has taken, both for the Hammers and for England, over the past 12 months, it’s no surprise that United have been persistently linked with a big-money move for the versatile midfielder.
But how did the 23-year-old get on against his suitors? And was his performance enough to persuade Rangnick and the United hierarchy to press ahead with a £100million move for the Kingston-born midfielder in the summer?
Mirror Football runs the rule over Rice’s performance against United…
Masterclass in control
Manchester United may have enjoyed more of the ball than their visitors, but it was Rice who ran the show at the Theatre of Dreams.
The various midfield combinations that United have utilised this season have lacked control in big games. It was no different against the Hammers, with Rice in complete control for the visitors.
It felt as though Rice was everywhere against United. He dominated the first half in particular and went in at the break boasting a 97% pass completion – a figure higher than anyone on the pitch.
It’s not an over-exaggeration to say that Rice’s midfield display exemplified that United’s own engine room have been sorely lacking this term.
Given how Rice stood head-and-shoulders above every other midfielder on the pitch, it’s not hard to see why United have reportedly identified the midfield maestro as their top target – even if it means smashing the £100m British transfer record to prise him away from West Ham.
Rice may have bossed the ball for the Hammers, but he also showcased the gritty, defensive nous that has been absent during United’s lacklustre season.
It’s not a coincidence that United failed to register a single shot on target from their five attempts in the opening period.
Rice was responsible for blocking one of those shots and went one further by winning both of the tackles he attempted and completing a total of four ball recoveries and two interceptions in the first half; more than anybody else on the pitch.
While Rice has been labelled as the perfect midfielder to shore up United’s uninspiring midfield, the midfielder has evolved his game over the past 12 months and can no longer just be pigeon-holed as a holding midfielder.
The Hammers talisman has already racked up seven goal contributions this year – a total that’s almost double his previous career-best tally of four from the 2019/20 season.
Rice’s driving forward runs have become a hallmark of his game this year.
Midway through the first half, Rice embarked on one of those powerful forays forward. He beat two men before his final ball into the box was charged down.
Matthew Peters/Manchester United)
For all Rice’s excellence both on and off the ball, there was one moment in the first half that would have really stood out for Rangnick.
Rice pickpocketed Ronaldo and spun away from the United superstar with ease – making a mockery of the Portuguese superstar.
If there were any question-marks over Rice’s ability to handle playing for United at Old Trafford, his fearless display on Saturday should put that to bed once and for all.
Rice looked every inch a Manchester United player – and if United have their way, then it won’t be the last time that Rice will boss proceedings at Old Trafford in the near future.