Manchester United are working on a deal to sign Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips.
United have prioritised a defensive midfielder in the summer market after deciding against signing one last year and Phillips has impressed since Leeds were promoted to the Premier League in 2020.
Although United are interested in Phillips’s England teammates Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham, West Ham have publicly valued Rice at an exorbitant £150million while Borussia Dortmund want to keep Bellingham for one more year as they are resigned to losing Erling Haaland this summer.
Rice is developing into a box-to-box midfielder and Bellingham’s creativity is striking, whereas Phillips has excelled in a deeper role for Leeds and England.
The United coach-elect Erik ten Hag would have a veto on any players United have already shortlisted but United are understood to be advancing on an intended deal to sign Phillips.
Phillips is also aligned with interim United manager Ralf Rangnick’s preference for targeting hungry players seeking a progressive career move.
Ten Hag is set to inherit central midfielders Scott McTominay, Fred and Nemanja Matic, with James Garner hopeful of securing a squad place next season after thriving on loan at Nottingham Forest.
United are mindful of how restricted they could be in the summer market if they fail to qualify for the Champions League, which would effectively scupper any ambitious move for Rice or Bellingham. Phillips is generating interest from Aston Villa and West Ham and United are confident of seeing off any competitors.
Phillips is contracted to Leeds until 2024 and discussions over a renewal have become protracted. Although Phillips is a boyhood Leeds fan, United have attracted a number of Leeds players in several high-profile transfers.
United convinced Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen to cross the divide in 1978, Eric Cantona joined United six months after helping Leeds win the English league title in 1992, Rio Ferdinand became United’s record signing in 2002 and Yorkshire-born Alan Smith, who had claimed he would never play for United, signed for the club in 2004. Winger Arthur Graham also transferred from Leeds to United in 1983.
Leeds and United have also been in dialogue in the last two summers about Daniel James, who eventually moved to Elland Road on deadline day in August for £25m rising to £30m.
Phillips returned from a fourth-month absence with a hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw with Southampton on Saturday but played 29 times in the Premier League last season, making his international debut against Denmark on the eve of the campaign.
Phillips started in all seven of England’s European Championship matches and is still considered essential by coach Gareth Southgate, despite his recent lay-off.
Rice, 23, expressed interest in joining United last year but is tied to West Ham until 2024. Bellngham, 18, visited United’s Carrington training complex when he was 16 but chose to join Dortmund in 2020.