Will Jack Grealish be tempted by Man United or Man City move now?
Jack Grealish’s latest visit to Old Trafford will inevitably be viewed as another audition, with the odds on a transfer to United or City short… but as £100m star shines for Aston Villa and England, will a Manchester move actually come to pass?
- Jack Grealish and Aston Villa head to Manchester United on New Year’s Day
- Last season, Grealish scored a spectacular goal as Villa claimed a 2-2 draw
- Sitting fifth in the table, he has helped transform them from relegation fodder
- Grealish penned a new five-year contract with his boyhood club in the summer
- But rumours of interest from Man United and Man City still lingers
- So Grealish’s performance at Old Trafford will still be scrutinised as an audition
No doubt Aston Villa genuinely believed the speculation over Jack Grealish’s future would dissipate as soon as he put pen to paper on that five-year contract back in September.
Alas, that has proved wishful thinking. Such has been their captain’s excellent form this season, fresh rumours of interest from the two Manchester clubs are never far away.
So the player who has more auditions than a luckless thespian will have another one when Villa travel to Manchester United on New Year’s Day.
Jack Grealish celebrates with a knee slide and a stare into the Stretford End after scoring a stunning goal in Aston Villa’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford last season
Grealish cut inside Andreas Pereira and curled an unstoppable shot into the top corner
Grealish has already proven himself right at home on football’s biggest stages. On his last visit to Old Trafford he scored a top corner screamer in a 2-2 draw and celebrated with a knee slide while glaring into the Stretford End.
It was almost a ‘here’s what you could have’ message to United but the summer offer never materialised.
Grealish was then valued at around the £80million mark. That has now skyrocketed to north of £100m on the strength of a season that has seen him score six goals and contribute eight assists for Villa, elevating them to fifth in the Premier League. He has also won his first five England caps.
It explains why some bookmakers are offering odds as short as 5/1 for Grealish to join United during the upcoming January transfer window, or 9/4 to go to Manchester City.
In which case, Villa’s latest trip to Old Trafford is intriguingly timed. But bear in mind he is vastly odds-on to still be a Villa player come February.
After an outstanding opening half to the season with Villa, Grealish now returns to Old Trafford
The 25-year-old’s form has been brilliant since he signed a new five-year deal in September
Odds on a January move for Grealish
4/11 – Stays at Aston Villa
9/4 – Manchester City
5/1 – Manchester United
10/1 – Tottenham
12/1 – Liverpool
14/1 – Chelsea
20/1 – Paris Saint-Germain
Source – Oddschecker
Notwithstanding the fact expensive January transfers are rare – United’s transformative purchase of Bruno Fernandes 12 months ago being a notable exception – the push and pull factors don’t currently seem to be there for Grealish.
Last season, he was instrumental in ensuring Villa weren’t relegated back to the Championship at the first time of asking. This season, they’re a very different proposition.
Any worries they would be sucked into another relegation fight vanished a long time ago. Their form has been well above expectations and Grealish, seemingly re-energised by committing his future to the club, has led by example.
His performances in the memorable 7-2 win over Liverpool (two goals, three assists) and the 3-0 success away to Arsenal stand out. Another in a losing cause, when he scored and set up two more in the 4-3 home defeat by Southampton, is more often forgotten.
Grealish’s steady run of goal and assist contributions have helped Villa’s aspirations this season alter from survival to potentially getting into Europe.
While United have been in good form themselves of late, emerging as genuine challengers to Liverpool for the title, three points are far from assured when Villa come to town on Friday night.
It certainly won’t be the walk in the park United enjoyed when they beat Villa 3-0 back on July 9 when their counter-attacking football ripped the hosts to shreds.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side didn’t land their main targets in the summer but are second
United enter the new year sitting just three points behind leaders Liverpool with a game spare
So Villa are over achieving – they’re only four points behind Man United with a game in hand and three places above Man City. It isn’t logical for Grealish to jump ship right now.
It’s unlikely he has too many regrets he didn’t secure that big move in the summer. It’s nice being the star in a team punching above their weight, playing regularly and making a huge difference. Doubly so for your boyhood team.
And any fears that staying at Villa would put a freeze on his England chances have proved completely unfounded. Gareth Southgate would have to be deliberately ignorant not to pick Grealish on his form this season.
Luckily he did and within a few games it now appears that Grealish could not only go to Euro 2020 next summer but actually start for England.
On the other side, United are doing well enough without him. Second in the table and breathing down the neck of Liverpool, they have improved in leaps and bounds from a sluggish start to the season.
Grealish has grabbed his England opportunity with both hands in five games played
Having waited patiently for his chance, Grealish looks set for an important role at the Euros
Grealish this season
(14 Premier League, 1 Carabao Cup)
(1,260 Premier League, 90 Carabao Cup)
(5 Premier League, 1 Carabao Cup)
(8 Premier League)
Matches 5 Minutes 317
Goals 0 Assists 2
Unlike 12 months ago, when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looked set for the sack and the team was booed off after losing at home to Burnley, there’s no need for January repair work.
It’s also difficult to see where Grealish fits into the side. Replace Marcus Rashford on the left side of the attack or replace Fernandes in the No 10 role.
Solskjaer wouldn’t drop either right now, they’re his leading scorers this season by a considerable margin.
United would have to convert Grealish into a right-sided attacker to patch the more obvious hole there or shift the whole attack around to suit the new arrival.
From playing every single game, he’d also have to take his share of time on the bench in order to keep everyone satisfied.
United should already have enough to mount a title challenge in this most unpredictable of seasons. If they fall just short in the end, a summer move for a Grealish or Jadon Sancho makes sense.
And while Manchester City haven’t looked their usual selves for much of the season, they too aren’t exactly light on attacking talent. If Grealish went there, he’d be part of Pep Guardiola’s rotation of talented forwards.
But the possibility of Grealish taking that step up isn’t going to vanish. The Manchester clubs would be able to raise his salary from £130,000 a week to over £200,000 a week and that deal until 2025 would mean little.
There will be renewed interest in the summer without a doubt, especially if Villa don’t qualify for Europe.
And until the move happens, every time Grealish comes up against United or City, it’s going to be seen by many as yet another audition.
Grealish celebrates after scoring the seventh in Villa’s 7-2 demolition of Liverpool in October
Celebrating with striker Ollie Watkins after Villa beat Arsenal 3-0 at the Emirates Stadium
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