News From Manchester: Declan Rice could solve one of Erik ten Hag’s key Manchester United problems – Jack Flintham

Whether it be strengthening the spine of the squad, rebuilding the faith of supporters or creating a new culture at Old Trafford, it would be unsurprising if the pressure of each of these tasks is already beginning to weigh heavy upon him. Add into the mix the drama of potentially finding a new captain and it is enough to give you a headache just thinking about it.

Most United fans are in agreement that Harry Maguire should be released of the burden of captaincy in pre-season. That is not to say that he should lose his place altogether in the squad but the England international could only benefit from less of a spotlight on him.

A problem which Ten Hag will soon encounter though is that, currently, there are no viable options to choose from to replace Maguire. Of course Cristiano Ronaldo has the experience but with his contract expiring at the end of next season, it would seem short-sighted to give him the role for just a season.

Likewise, David de Gea may not be around for too much longer either. So, beyond those two, nobody screams 'captain material'.

One route open to Ten Hag this summer would be to buy a captain and luckily there is one man who could strengthen the spine of the team while also having the right temperament to step into that prestigious role – Declan Rice.

West Ham's sensational midfielder has been a long term target for United with the team currently crying out for a defensive midfielder. It is reported that he is open to leaving the London Stadium so now could be the perfect time for the Reds to swoop in.

His price tag may be a sticking point, however in the current market 100m may be what is needed to secure a player who could lead Ten Hag's new era. Rice's professionalism has been commended by those who know him best, including England manager Gareth Southgate.

Back in March, Southgate even tipped Rice to become a captain. He told the Independent: “He is right amongst that (England captaincy) despite his age.

“What I have seen this season is the confidence that he has gained from his experience last summer. Without a doubt he has all the attributes to be a captain.”

If United could manage to pull off the signing of the summer and bring Rice to the north west, it would prove to be a statement of intent. As we have seen in the last six years with Paul Pogba, the mentality of a player can override any footballing ability.

In Rice, Ten Hag could entrust him with bringing up the standards of the entirety of the Reds squad. And who better to inspire the next generation of United talent than the man who has cemented himself as an international regular at the age of just 23.

He is the obvious solution to one of Ten Hag's biggest issues this summer. Whether he could convince Rice to join his project, only time will tell on that.

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