Why West Ham battler Alvarez has emerged as a Man Utd target


When Erik ten Hag left Ajax for Manchester United, be brought two of his former players to Old Trafford with him - Lisandro Martinez and Antony. The former has been a success during his two years at the club, even if he has missed substantial chunks of the campaign owing to injury, while the latter has very much struggled in a United shirt. 


And if reports are to be believed, United are considering a reunion between Ten Hag and another former Ajax man. Edson Alvarez was linked with a move away from the Dutch side the same summer Ten Hag left for the Premier League powerhouse but a transfer failed to materialise. In what proved to be his final campaign in Amsterdam, the Mexican impressed, returning a WhoScored rating of 7.34. 


That season saw Alvarez finish second for passes per game (77.3) and win possession in the midfield third 120 times, that ranking 11th in the division. Considering Ajax's dominance in 2022/23 - their possession average of 66.7% was far and away the highest - that Alvarez ranked so high for the latter showed the desire to win the ball back for his side. 



Ultimately it was West Ham who won the race to sign Alvarez last summer following the departure of Declan Rice for Arsenal, and while the 26-year-old hardly pulled up any trees, he proved a solid addition to the Hammers. With a season of Premier League experience behind him, United have sinced turned their attention to Alvarez as they seek to bolster their midfield in the off-season. 


It's looking increasingly likely that Casemiro will depart Old Trafford this summer having been overlooked for the FA Cup final win over Manchester City last month. Even if the Brazilian does stay, United need bolstering in the middle of the park. Joao Neves of Benfica fame has been linked, but the 19-year-old would need to get up to speed with the demands of Ten Hag and Premier League football. 


Crucially is that Alvarez not only has a year of experience in England's top tier behind him but he is also aware of the demands of Ten Hag. The Mexico international was key as Ajax celebrated back-to-back Eredivisie titles in 2021 and 2022 and importantly will provide necessary protection to a United defence that was left far too exposed last season. 


Only Sheffield United (17.8) conceded more shots per game than United (17.6) in Europe's top five leagues last season with the latter's games often playing out like basketball matches. It was entertaining for the neutral but a nightmare for United fans, who'd much prefer a more compact side. Alvarez, then, would be important to getting this figure down. 



Alvarez averaged a modest three tackles per 90 in the Premier League last season and mustered a respectable 69.6% tackle success rate. In addition, 1.6 interceptions per 90 further highlighted not only a desire to get stuck in, but also a commendable reading of the game. He'd know when to hang back when United do press forward and, perhaps decisively, would ensure the number of shots the Premier League side do give up would drop considerably. 


That's not to say the signing of Alvarez would correct all of United's off-ball issues, yet he'd be a step in the right direction. In addition, Alvarez's positional discipline would allow Kobbie Mainoo, his likely midfield partner were he to swap the London Stadium for Old Trafford, would have the freedom to push on and link the defence and attack. Mainoo needs a designated holder to press upfield, and the Mexico captain would provide that safety net to permit the 19-year-old to carry possession from the middle to the final third. 


While perhaps not the first choice for a number of supporters, Alvarez and Ten Hag worked well together with Ajax, and this bodes well at United if they do firm up their interest in the midfielder. The jury may be out on allowing the Dutchman the chance to determine transfer targets - it was Ten Hag who pushed hard for the big-money signing of Antony - but Alvarez isn't an unknown quality arriving from the Eredivisie. Indeed, he could prove the smart option for United as they look to bolster in the middle of the park.

Why West Ham battler Alvarez has emerged as a Man Utd target