Manchester United have reportedly scouted West Ham United midfielder Declan Rice amid rumours they will try to sign the 20-year-old in the summer transfer window.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent his "personal scout" Simon Wells to watch the Englishman in action during Friday's Premier League defeat to Sheffield United at Bramall Lane, according to the Daily Mail's Craig Hope.
Wells is Solskjaer's "most trusted scout" and reports directly to the Manchester United boss, while Rice has emerged as one of the club's top summer targets to strengthen midfield, per the report.
Rice will have caught the eye during Friday's match. The 20-year-old thought he had scored a late equaliser for the Hammers only to see his effort ruled out by VAR.
The midfielder's frustration at the decision was evident after the final whistle (UK video only):
Sky Sports Premier League @SkySportsPL
"Well, we're fuming really. All the lads in there are livid!" 😡 Declan Rice was NOT happy after VAR ruled out Robert Snodgrass' injury time goal for a handball against him in the build-up. Oli McBurnie scores from David Martin error for winner: https://t.co/OPvtcCE2ai #SHUWHU https://t.co/3fGGjK2Qw8
Rice began his career at Chelsea but moved to West Ham in 2014 and has progressed through the youth ranks into the first team. He has become a key figure for the Hammers and signed a long-term contract with the club in December 2018 that runs until 2024.
The midfielder's performances saw him earn a first England promotion in March 2019 after switching allegiance from the Republic of Ireland. He made his Three Lions debut in a 5-0 UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying win over the Czech Republic.
This is not the first time Rice has been linked with a move to Manchester United. Speculation was rife in summer 2019 that the Red Devils were keen on a move, and the midfielder spoke about the reported interest, per FourFourTwo (via MailOnline):
"Don't get me wrong, I think I've got the ability to play for a club like that. But it's all about the timing, and I don't think the timing is right for me at all. I've still got so much to learn. I'm loving it at West Ham. The connection between me and the supporters is special. I've become one of the fans' favourites and the manager likes me. It's the best place for me to play my football."
Yet a proposed move to Manchester United drew criticism from some of the club's former players. Ex-captain Roy Keane has been openly critical of the midfielder:
Meanwhile, former Red Devil Gary Neville also expressed reservations about Rice moving to Old Trafford. Speaking on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football (h/t Metro), he said he was unsure if his former club should make a big-money move for the midfielder.
Yet midfield has been a problem area for Manchester United in 2019-20 and appears to be a priority for strengthening. The club could even delve into the transfer market in January and have been linked with a move for Sporting CP's Bruno Fernandes, per ESPN:
Solskjaer has appeared keen to bring in young British talent to build his squad and has already signed Harry Maguire and Daniel James. Rice is another player who fits that profile and appears to be of interest to the Manchester United boss.