Man Utd race ahead of Liverpool, Tottenham by suddenly planning to sign impressive defender this month

Man Utd, Liverpool and Tottenham target Ko Itakura

Man Utd are aiming to beat Liverpool and Tottenham to Ko Itakura

Manchester United have joined the race to sign Ko Itakura from Borussia Monchengladbach, according to a report that has explained how they plan to win the battle for his signature.

Itakura was previously on the books of another Manchester club, but all of his time at City’s disposal was spent out on loan, first with FC Groningen and then with Schalke. After proving himself in the Bundesliga, he made a permanent move to Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer of 2022.

Across 25 appearances in his debut season and eight this term before he suffered an ankle injury and later headed off to the Asian Cup, Itakura has earned plenty of admirers during his time with Borussia Monchengladbach.

There has been conversation about a second chance in the Premier League for the 26-year-old, who has this week been linked with Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.

Liverpool are looking for a long-term successor to Virgil van Dijk who can partner the captain to start with, while Ange Postecoglou has had success with signing Asian players before and could repeat the trick for Tottenham.

But, as already explained on Friday morning, Man Utd are preparing a revolution in their defence as well.

Reports have described how Harry Maguire, Victor Lindelof, Raphael Varane and Jonny Evans could all leave at the end of the season, which would open up some vacancies in the Man Utd rearguard.

They would be on the hunt for players who can complement Lisandro Martinez in their evolving defence. Now, a new report has revealed one candidate to come in.

According to Football Transfers, a player who is becoming a ‘prime target’ for Man Utd is Itakura himself.

The rival interest from Liverpool and Tottenham is acknowledged, but both clubs might prefer to bid for Itakura in the summer, when a €15m (£12.9m) release clause in his contract will be active.

Man Utd could make January move for Itakura

In contrast, the report claims Man Utd are willing to accelerate their own move for Itakura in an attempt to reinforce their defence straight away this month.

It might mean they would have to pay a slightly higher fee – which is not specified – but it could be the way for them to land Itakura before any of their direct opponents do.

What the player himself feels regarding his next step remains to be seen. He is still under contract with Borussia Monchengladbach until 2026.

There are no details about who might be his preferred next club – or even league.

Interestingly, before he left Man City for Borussia Monchengladbach, Itakura was suggested as a target for Celtic, who were managed by Postecoglou at the time.

That move never materialised, though Postecoglou may yet get the chance to work with Itakura at his new club.

Tottenham have already been busy investing in their defence since welcoming their current coach. In the summer, they signed Micky van de Ven from Wolfsburg, and this month, they have taken Radu Dragusin from Genoa.

Whether or not Spurs would still have a need for another defender of similar calibre may well depend on how some of their existing backup players – like Ashley Phillips, who joined from Blackburn Rovers in the summer and has recently been loaned out to Plymouth Argyle – develop.

Liverpool, meanwhile, are wondering about the long term of their defence due to Van Dijk’s age and the fact that Joel Matip, who is currently injured, will become a free agent in the summer.

Neither Ibrahima Konate nor Joe Gomez have always been available during their Liverpool careers due to historical injuries, which might encourage Jurgen Klopp and Jorg Schmadtke to return to a market they both know well by targeting a reliable reinforcement from the Bundesliga.

Will Man Utd pay up in January?

But all those plans on Merseyside and in north London would become irrelevant if Man Utd were able to pull off a deal for Itakura in advance.

That said, there are still doubts about how much Man Utd will spend in what remains of the winter window, especially while they are waiting for the Premier League to approve Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s investment into the club.

Furthermore, Itakura would have to question how much gametime he would immediately get for the rest of the season until Man Utd can shift some of their less desirable defenders in the summer.

But in the long term, the evolution that is expected in Erik ten Hag’s defence might include a place for Itakura, just as he prepares for the prime of his career.

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