Manchester United’s admiration of Declan Rice is likely to lead them to the negotiating table with West Ham next summer.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been a long-term admirer of the defensive midfielder, who has excelled for the Hammers and come of age for the England national side over the past year.
The Old Trafford hierarchy have taken the patient approach in their pursuit of Rice so far.
West Ham are likely to demand a sum in the region of £100m for their academy star next summer.
That’s a huge fee – but one that United are unlikely to shirk paying.
But they could run the risk of falling into the same transfer trap as their neighbours, Manchester City, if they fail to wrap up a move for the 22-year-old quickly.
The tactic that United adopted to eventually lure Jadon Sancho to Old Trafford this past summer is unlikely to do the trick when it comes to striking a deal for Rice.
If Solskjaer truly believes that Rice is the final piece in the Old Trafford jigsaw to get United back to their former levels of domestic dominance, then they should sanction that mammoth outlay as soon as possible.
Lessons will have been learnt from City’s pursuit of Tottenham striker Harry Kane this summer.
Pep Guardiola identified Kane as the prime candidate to replace legendary striker Sergio Aguero.
City flirted with the England captain all summer, but recent reports have revealed that they only submitted one official bid for the elite attacker.
The Manchester outfit believed that their prolonged approach would be the best bet to secure a deal with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy.
But the Spurs chief is notorious for his stubborn negotiating stance and was irked by the actions of both City and Kane.
That meant that any scope for a potential deal was dead in the water long before that information ebbed out into the public domain.
The risk of that happening to United with Rice is something that can’t be ruled out.
Rice is a popular figure at West Ham and unpopular owners David Gold and David Sullivan are likely to face a public backlash should they sanction a departure.
So it makes sense to wrap up a deal as quickly as possible – diminishing any potential window for the Hammers hierarchy to change their mind.
After adding Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo to their attacking ranks, as well as shoring up their defence with Raphael Varane, a defensive midfielder is the last area that United are desperately in need of upgrading.
Rice has the right profile and ability to fill that role for Solskjaer’s men, so they shouldn’t drag their feet over a deal.
Manchester City’s failure to secure Kane’s signature already looks like it could have a detrimental affect on their bid to retain their Premier League crown.
United don’t want to be left in a similar position by failing to solve their midfield issues and missing out on Rice next summer.