No-frills midfielder Eric Dier would be valuable despite potential cost
Manchester United fans were left largely underwhelmed by the news that Michael Carrick had replaced Wayne Rooney as captain. While it's true he has been a loyal servant for the past 11 years and has done well for the club, it's hard to look past the fact he will turn 36 in the next few weeks and only featured in 18 Premier League games last season.
Carrick's playing time is likely to be limited further next season if Jose Mourinho gets his wish of signing a defensive midfielder.
Nemanja Matic was long-hailed as the most likely new arrival, but chances of that happening took a hit after United beat Chelsea to the signature of Romelu Lukaku, the striker that Antonio Conte had at the top of his shopping list this summer. This has lead to talk of Eric Dier making the move to Old Trafford, with reports suggesting that the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder would be keen to make the move to Manchester.
While obviously not a candidate to be captain, Dier would likely take more minutes from Carrick, and the reaction from United fans is likely to be mixed.
When Carrick arrived at the club in 2006, taking Roy Keane's No.16, there were plenty of supporters who were disappointed. Throughout his time at the club, there has been a section of fans who have been indifferent, at best, to Carrick's presence at United. He was never going to be in the Keane mould, but that was the sort of player the fans were desperately craving -- in fact, they still are -- so his signing was seen as fairly anticlimactic.
While it would be wrong to claim Dier is the next Keane, he certainly resembles him more than Carrick ever did. The former United captain would have been proud of the performance Dier put in the season before last on the night at Stamford Bridge when Tottenham Hotspur conceded the league title. He threw himself into challenge after challenge, somehow avoiding a red card while allowing his emotions to get the better of him. Keane would have been guilty of exactly the same in that situation.
One thing that did amuse United supporters last season was Dier's veiled threat toward Ander Herrera. The Spaniard is immensely popular at Old Trafford, so fans didn't take too kindly to Dier having a pop following a clash on international duty.
Dier claimed he was elbowed in the face during England's draw against Spain, a game in which Herrera made his national team debut. Dier labelled Herrera's action "ridiculous" before adding, "I'll see him soon," in reference to Spurs' upcoming game at Old Trafford. It hardly carried the same menace that Keane's statement to Patrick Vieira in the Highbury tunnel did, but it showed a bit of fire in his belly.
However, the day before the game, Dier gave an interview in which he downplayed the whole incident, claiming he was just joking. United won 1-0, Dier was an unused substitute, and Herrera was named man of the match.
Still, while such silliness won't put United off the midfielder, the club still has to overcome the hurdle of dealing with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy. He has been a thorn in United's side on a number of occasions and was embarrassed in the summer of 2008 after putting Dimitar Berbatov on a plane to Manchester to discuss terms with City -- only for him to be collected from the airport by Sir Alex Ferguson and taken swiftly to United's Carrington training ground.
David Gill and Ferguson have both left the club since then, meaning there is the opportunity for an olive branch to be offered. But even if the Spurs are to sell Dier, they will demand a large fee.
Dier made 48 appearances for Spurs last season in all competitions and formed a budding bromance with Dele Alli, much to the delight of the supporters. Losing Dier would be viewed as a step backward for the North London club, who will be hoping it's lucky the third time in their bid to be crowned Premier League champions next season, after coming close in their last two consecutive campaigns.
For the fee that Spurs would demand, United supporters would likely be disappointed with what Dier has to offer, yet Mourinho has a clear vision of what he wants his team to be and may see the value of a no-frills midfielder like Dier. His contribution could allow Paul Pogba to flourish in a way he was never fully able to last season.
Fans will be underwhelmed but should have faith that Mourinho knows what he's doing. He builds title-winning squads at every club he manages, and if he sees Dier as one of the missing pieces of the puzzle, he probably knows better than the average fan who is dismissive of what Dier has to offer.
Carrick didn't get the fans buzzing, but his arrival coincided with three title wins on the bounce for United. If Dier could play a similar role, supporters would be more than happy regardless of the overinflated transfer fee.
Scott is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow him on Twitter: @R_o_M.