Former Blackburn Rovers loanee Jarrad Branthwaite is being lined up for a January move from Premier League giants Manchester United, according to The Daily Express.
The 21-year-old – now of Everton – has enjoyed a fantastic season at Goodison Park to date, breaking into the team under Sean Dyche. He has started the Toffees’ last 10 league fixtures, whilst also playing an important role in their march to the Carabao Cup quarter final.
The talented centre-back joined the top flight outfit in 2020 after emerging from Carlisle United’s academy. He made his senior debut for the Cumbrian side aged just 17 in the EFL Trophy defeat against Wolverhampton Wanderers under-21s in October 2019 before making his first league appearance for the club a month later.
His form in League Two caught the eye of Everton, who then forked out a reported £1 million in January 2020, just three months after breaking onto the scene at Brunton Park. Initially a part of the under-23 setup, he made four Premier League appearances before the end of the 2019/20 campaign.
He joined Blackburn in January 2021 on a temporary basis, starting nine Championship fixtures in succession upon his arrival before dropping out of the team and then suffering an injury which brought his stay at Ewood Park to a premature end.
A successful loan spell followed at Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven and he returned to Merseyside in the summer before committing his future to the club last month by penning a new four-year deal. However, disaster struck this week when Everton were docked 10 points for breaching the Premier League’s financial rules, plunging the club into the relegation zone.
There are rumours that relegated clubs Leicester City, Leeds United and Southampton could all launch legal pursuits after their former league rivals survived on the last day of the season in May, prompting fears that they may be forced to sell a number of their key stars.
According to The Express, Manchester United are watching developments with interest and could swoop for Branthwaite in January, as well as teammate Amadou Onana.
Erik ten Hag’s team have struggled with injuries in the defensive department this season, with veteran Jonny Evans having to deputise alongside Harry Maguire in the absence of first-choice pairing Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez. It is said that a new defender is on the agenda in the New Year, with the England under-21 international now near the top of their shopping list.
Manchester United currently sit in sixth in the Premier League, five points behind fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur and seven off leaders Manchester City.
Big things were expected from Branthwaite as early as his days at Carlisle United, with the Blues seeing enough in him to thrust him into the first team at such a young age. Whilst his spell at Blackburn Rovers was disrupted by injury, it still provided an invaluable experience and he is expected to break into the England setup in the coming years.
Manchester United’s interest is no surprise and is an easy link to make with their defensive struggles this season. Everton will not want to sell a player who has been a regular first team star this season, especially as they still stand a very realistic chance of avoiding relegation.