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Manchester United Transfer News: Moussa Dembele Targeted to Replace Wayne Rooney

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2017

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 29:  Moussa Dembele is seen during a training session at Lennoxtown Training Centre on December 29, 2016 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Manchester United reportedly want Celtic striker Moussa Dembele to replace Wayne Rooney this summer. The Red Devils are also said to face competition from Premier League leaders Chelsea for the French attacker.

An exclusive report from Paul Hetherington of the Daily Star has revealed how United are getting ready for Rooney's anticipated departure at the end of the season. Hetherington explained how the Old Trafford club has already assembled a list of would-be replacements, with Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann heading the group.

However, the report also detailed how United have been keeping tabs on Dembele: "They sent chief scout Jim Lawlor to watch him against Motherwell last weekend, when he scored his 27th goal of the season."

United may be keeping close watch, but Hetherington made clear how the competition is growing for the 20-year-old: "Chelsea were represented and Dembele, who netted twice more against Hamilton yesterday, has also been linked with Arsenal and Bayern Munich."

Rooney is tipped to leave United this summer.
Rooney is tipped to leave United this summer.Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Rooney will likely need replacing come the end of the season despite becoming United's all-time leading goalscorer earlier this campaign. Even so, the England international is now 31 and hasn't always featured since Jose Mourinho succeeded Louis van Gaal as manager last summer.

In fact, Rooney has made just eight starts in the Premier League this term, according to WhoScored.com. Being relegated to spot duty has naturally increased speculation Rooney will move on, with a switch to the lucrative Chinese Super League most often mooted for the former Everton man.

A report from James Ducker of the Daily Telegraph recently hinted Rooney may have been sold to China before the country's transfer deadline this month. However, Rooney cooled such talk by announcing he wouldn't quit Old Trafford before this Premier League campaign concludes, per the Sun's Sam Morgan.

If Rooney is on borrowed time in Manchester, then Dembele makes sense as a possible replacement. The 20-year-old has wowed clubs across Europe with his superb displays since moving to Glasgow.

The former Fulham star has dominated across all competitions, according to Squawka Football:

Squawka Football @Squawka

Moussa Dembele has now scored 29 goals across all competitions for Celtic this season, including three hat-tricks for the club. ⚽️ https://t.co/scjQE6qPBZ

More than the goals, though, Dembele's pace and linkup play are sure to appeal to United boss Mourinho. He's a strategist who loves rapid transitions in the final third between skilled attackers well-versed in striking on the break.

Of course, those are the same qualities United's own French forward, Anthony Martial, possesses. Yet Mourinho has often been reluctant to trust the 21-year-old this season.

Dembele's performances are naturally going to draw interest from the biggest clubs, but it seems more likely Mourinho will either persist with Martial or sign a more high-profile forward than Dembele to replace Rooney.

United Lead Race for Potential David De Gea Replacement

Dembele isn't the only promising young talent United are said to be monitoring. The Red Devils are also reportedly leading the race to sign AC Milan's teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, according to Steve Bates of the Sunday Mirror.

The 18-year-old Rossoneri stopper is seen as United's contingency in case incumbent No. 1 David De Gea forces a move to La Liga giants Real Madrid: "Manager Jose Mourinho is keen to make a contingency plan in case David De Gea decides he wants a return to Spain after Real Madrid's botched attempt to sign the 26-year-old keeper on summer deadline day in 2015. But Mourinho's European scouts are all over Naples-born Donnarumma, who has exploded on the scene in Serie A in dramatic style."

Bates also noted how United's neighbours Manchester City are also keen on Donnarumma, but he dubbed the men from Old Trafford "hot favourites" to land a 'keeper the club has had watched all season.

Donnarumma fits the bill as the type of player Mourinho needs to recruit in order to make United sustained winners of major trophies and titles again. The Italian is young, gifted and already looks ready to win top honours sooner rather than later in his career.

However, everything would obviously hinge on De Gea leaving. His move to the Santiago Bernabeu didn't happen in 2015, but there have been no outward signs since that De Gea is unhappy with life in Manchester.

In fact, De Gea even signed a new deal, set to run an initial four years, back in 2015. In January of this year, Daniel Cutts of the Sun reported Mourinho intends to activate the one-year extension in De Gea's contract this summer.

De Gea looks likely to stay at Old Trafford, at least for the foreseeable future.
De Gea looks likely to stay at Old Trafford, at least for the foreseeable future.Mark Thompson/Getty Images

It doesn't appear as if United are getting ready for De Gea leave England's top flight next season. If anything, signing Donnarumma is redundant for a club boasting a 26-year-old who is arguably the best in the world at his position between the sticks.

Mourinho will surely add to United's ranks this summer, but expect a more established attacker than Dembele to arrive. De Gea staying also looks likely as things stand.