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Manchester United could sign wildcard goalkeeper to give Rangnick his new Manuel Neuer – Mike Parrott


The Ralf Rangnick era seems to be fully under way at Manchester United. With two wins and a draw in his first three games, United fans have every reason to feel excited about what’s to come next.

And Rangnick’s record in the transfer market means there may be more excitement just around the corner. As head of sport for Red Bull at both Leipzig and Salzburg, Rangnick unearthed gems such as Sadio Mane, Naby Keita, Erling Haaland, Timo Werner, and Joshua Kimmich, to name a few.

But he was known even before his time at Red Bull for finding great deals. Roberto Firmino was a big one for his tenure at Hoffenheim, buying the Brazilian for a little more than £3million, then selling him to Liverpool for £37million just four years later.

But there’s another deal, arguably the German’s best ever, that wasn’t even a transfer. Rangnick brought a lowly goalkeeper from the Schalke academy into the senior squad. When Rangnick returned to Schalke in 2011 after his tenure in 2004/05, that goalkeeper was exploding onto the scene.

The keeper in question was Manuel Neuer.

And if everyone reading this knows how the German legend plays, you would know that Rangnick is a big advocate of Neuer’s playing style and tries to emulate it in his system. It’s essential to his system due to the amount of space between the defence and the goal.

His goalkeeper needs to be assertive, authoritative with a penchant for sweeping and dominating aerials. These are traits you couldn’t say any of United’s four goalkeepers have.

Dean Henderson seems to be on his way out in January, with reports linking him to Ajax. David De Gea also seemed similar, with many fans wanting him out in the summer. His form this season has changed that outlook, but if anything, it would now be a better time to strike on selling while in good condition. We don’t need to talk about Tom Heaton or Lee Grant.

However, a goalkeeper that has been linked to United recently has been Leeds United’s Illan Meslier.

United’s chief scout, Jim Lawlor, has reportedly been scouting Meslier for quite some time, while goalkeeping scout Tony Coton was caught watching Meslier when Leeds played Man City.

Even though it wasn’t the best game to watch due to Leeds getting demolished by City to the tune of 7-0, Meslier still put in a good performance, saving eight of the 15 shots on target and constantly stopping City’s attacks.



TOPSHOT – Leeds United’s French goalkeeper Illan Meslier makes a save during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leeds United at Stamford Bridge in London on December 11, 2021. – RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

Meslier would be an excellent fit for Rangnick’s system. The young Frenchman has flown under the radar at Leeds, but his stats and attributes make him the perfect modern-day goalkeeper, especially if he can continue to develop.

When comparing modern-day goalkeeping stats to United’s current goalkeeper in De Gea, they paint a remarkable picture.

Per FBRef, in defensive actions outside of the box, a good measure to see how often the goalkeeper sweeps, Meslier averages 1.11 actions per 90. De Gea, on the other hand, averages 0.19 actions per 90.

To put that into perspective, Man City’s Ederson — a very well-known sweeper — narrowly beats out Meslier with his total of 1.13 actions per 90.

His passing numbers are great too. Outside of routine passes that go straight to the defenders, Meslier averages 15.3 completed passes per 90 in the distance between 15-30 yards. A good measure for a goalkeeper’s vision is to find the more challenging pass to the midfielder or the progressing wing-backs.

In the same distance of between 15-30 yards, David De Gea only completes 8.19 passes per 90, just over 50% the amount Meslier makes. In perspective, Ederson averages lower than Meslier, with 14.4 completed per 90.

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Meslier’s ability to claim crosses makes him a desirable option for any big team, especially United under Rangnick. Defending from set-pieces has been one of United’s most significant weaknesses over the past few years.

Outlined below, courtesy of John Harrison, you can see that Meslier was one of the best cross-claimers in the Premier League last season. No wonder with the Frenchman measuring 6ft 4 ins.

Meslier could be an absolute steal if Rangnick could pull off a deal. The Frenchman is still only 21, has excellent physical traits and has the anticipation and mentality you want in modern goalkeepers to sweep, claim crosses and pass like an outfield player.

He may not be an outstanding shot-stopper like David De Gea, but Meslier could become the next best thing to Neuer when it comes to goalkeepers Rangnick has brought through.

Do you think Illan Meslier is a good fit for Manchester United? Follow our United On My Mind editor Mike Parrott on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comment section below.





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