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How Joao Mario could save Mourinho & Man Utd's season

Manchester United started the season on a massive high as they completely outclassed their opponents and appeared to be capable of becoming the champions of England once again as the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were performing their roles brilliantly.

That 'high' has since transformed into a relative low as United have fallen far behind their fierce rivals, Manchester City, who appear poised to lift the Premier League title come May should they manage to avoid little slip-ups here and there.

With City leading the pack, Jose Mourinho needs to make one or two new signings during the January transfer window in a bid to rekindle any hopes of catching up to Guardiola's men at some point this term. The January transfer window is on the horizon, thus United are already linked with a couple of players, some more heavily than others.

Over the past week, though, a new name has emerged, not one many initially expected, but one certainly good enough to wear the colours of Manchester United; Inter Milan's Joao Mario.

This isn't the first time United have been linked with Joao Mario, though. The Red Devils were reportedly keen on signing him in 2016, back when he played for Sporting in the Liga NOS.

After repeatedly failing to acquire Ivan Perisic last summer, the Red Devils have turned their focus towards his teammate, Joao Mario, who is reportedly unhappy at Inter Milan and keen on a move away from the club having been utilised sparingly by Luciano Spalletti in the Serie A this season.

The Portugal international has been handed just four league starts and seven substitute appearances this term. Whilst he's yet to bag his first league goal of the season, he's already made three assists.

PSG are also said to be interested in his services, although it is believed that Unai Emery would rather have him as a bit-part player than as a starter, and given he's unhappy about his lack of playing time at the San Siro, he's likely to opt for Manchester United due to the promise of more playing time.

United's midfielders, bar Pogba have been somewhat below par this term, which is why Jose Mourinho is keen on injecting some much needed quality into Manchester United's midfield in January.

Blessed with an exceptional work rate, mesmerising ball control, lightening quick speed of thought, and the right amount of aggression, Mario has what it takes to play under the Special One, he's a bit like Pogba, without the Frenchman's physicality.

Manchester United's current system revolves around Pogba's playmaking abilities. As we've all seen thus far, the Frenchman makes United tick, but in his absence, there's an apparent lack of creativity in United's midfield thus forcing the likes of Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard to work more on the pitch in a bid to make up for Pogba's absence.

Should United manage to lure Mario to Old Trafford though, they'll be able to reduce the reliance on Pogba due to Mario's technical abilities. The Portugal international has completed 90% of his passes per game in the Serie A thus far, more than Manchester United's current pool of central midfielders.

Mario also boasts of an average of 2.33 key passes per game, again, more than United's current pool of central midfielders.

The 24-year-old's ability on the ball is further highlighted by his 78.57 successful take-ons per 90 minutes, which is better than Paul Pogba's (70.97), a player widely regarded as one of the best dribblers in the Premier League.

It's quite clear that Mario would be a great addition to United's ranks, but it remains to be seen whether the Red Devils can reach an agreement with Inter over Mario's.

Having arrived at Inter from Sporting for a fee in the region of £40m, the Nerazzuri will be looking to recoup what they spent on Mario, thus their asking price could be in that region.

Phillip Ekuwem
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Phillip Ekuwem

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