Roberto De Zerbi has already thrown shade at top Man Utd target as Ratcliffe 'holds talks'

Roberto De Zerbi has been linked with a move to Manchester United (Image: Getty)

Roberto De Zerbi’s previous comments about one of Manchester United’s transfer targets have re-emerged after news claiming Sir Jim Ratcliffe is considering the Italian bobbed to the surface. De Zerbi is currently a free agent having departed Brighton and Hove Albion at the end of the season. 

At present, Ratcliffe is understood to be pondering on whether to keep current boss Erik ten Hag. The Dutchman looked destined for the sack until his United side impressively overcame Manchester City to win the FA Cup.

However, various reports have claimed United have made contact with De Zerbi and that the United minority owner is an admirer of the former Shakhtar Donetsk manager. If De Zerbi was to take over at Old Trafford, he may need to explain his previous comments about his former striker and United transfer target Evan Ferguson. 

At the end of April, De Zerbi was asked a question about young Brighton starlet Mark O’Mahony. He and Ferguson are both Irish centre forwards so comparisons were immediately drawn between the two youngsters. 

Yet, De Zerbi went one step further by appearing to cast shade on Ferguson’s game to help bring O’Mahony up. After Bournemouth defeated Brighton 3-0, De Zerbi was asked about the Irish U21 international. 

Instead of just praising O’Mahony, who had scored ten goals in 11 appearances for Brighton’s U21s side, De Zerbi said the 19-year-old’s possession skills were already ahead of Ferguson, who was repeatedly linked to United last summer. 

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Even Ferguson endured an injury-hit season in the last campaign (Image: Getty)

“I think he can be the new Evan Ferguson because he seems a lot like Evan,” De Zerbi said. “Maybe Evan has a different shot but Mark is better in terms of possession, he understands the play better.”

After making his breakthrough in the 2022-23 campaign, Ferguson had to cope with multiple setbacks with his fitness last season. Ferguson contributed six goals in 27 Premier League appearances for the Seagulls in his second season in the Premier League. At the start of the campaign, it was claimed United were plotting a move for the 19-year-old having kept close tabs on him for three years.

Reports from iNews claimed Brighton valued the centre-forward at a whopping £120m. That would be particularly painful for United as Ferguson once had a trial with the club. 

United are still considering whether to keep Ten Hag or not (Image: Getty)

“I was on trial with Manchester United, Celtic, and Everton,” Ferguson told Sussex Live. “I think from the outside it was obvious to see that [pathway at Brighton] and most of the managers here have given chances to young players.

“It was my decision, I think [Brighton] was a good club. When I came over it was different from all the other clubs.

“Obviously there were some other Irish boys here and you could see a pathway for them. It just had a different feeling here, everyone was welcoming. It was good.”