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Manchester United 'send scouts to watch Royal Antwerp's Mandela Keita'

Man United 'send scouts to watch Mandela Keita'
© Reuters
Manchester United send scouts to keep an eye on 21-year-old Royal Antwerp midfielder Mandela Keita, according to a report.

Manchester United have reportedly taken a liking to Royal Antwerp midfielder Mandela Keita.

The Belgium international first joined the Jupiler Pro League giants on loan from OH Leuven midway through the 2022-23 season, before returning for a second spell at the club in the summer window.

Having already come good in Antwerp colours, Keita's stock has continued to rise in the 2023-24 campaign, in which he has set up two goals from 29 matches from a defensive midfield role.

The 21-year-old started three games for the Belgian side in the Champions League group stage - including both of their clashes with Barcelona - and he boasts one goal and three assists from 47 games for Antwerp overall.

Thanks to his rise to prominence in his homeland, Keita made his senior debut for Belgium in a 3-2 Euro 2024 qualifying win over Austria in October, and his loan with Antwerp is set to become permanent this summer.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag on February 28, 2024© Reuters

However, the 21-year-old could soon be set for a swift exit from Antwerp, as according to Het Nieuwsblad, Man United have already sent representatives to keep an eye on him on several occasions.

The Red Devils are said to have identified Keita as an ideal successor to Casemiro, who shone for Erik ten Hag's side in his debut season but has seen his influence wane in recent months.

The former Real Madrid man still has two years left to run on his contract at Old Trafford, as well as an option until 2027, but he is one of a plethora of players who could be moved on in a summer clearout.

Clubs in Saudi Arabia are expected to pursue a deal for the 32-year-old, who is not believed to be in Sir Jim Ratcliffe's long-term vision for Man United following his 25% purchase.

Furthermore, Sofyan Amrabat's loan deal from Fiorentina is not expected to be made permanent owing to his struggles in Manchester, while Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen's futures are also unclear.

Manchester United midfielder Casemiro on September 30, 2023© Reuters

Keita's proposed move to Old Trafford would see him follow a similar path to former Antwerp teammate Arthur Vermeeren, who also burst onto the scene in Belgium in 2023 and earned a January move to Atletico Madrid.

Man United were rumoured to have been one of the suitors for Vermeeren too, but the Red Devils are not alone in their pursuit of Keita, who is also understood to be on the radar of West Ham United.

Keita has sat out eight games in 2023-24 with a knee injury, though, and one of Man United's newly-acquired midfielders - Mason Mount - has shared the same fitness fate with perennial calf issues this season.

The former Chelsea man has only featured on 12 occasions for Ten Hag's side since his £55m arrival from Stamford Bridge and will not be ready to make his comeback for Sunday's Manchester derby with Manchester United either.

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Royal Antwerp's Arthur Vermeeren pictured on September 19, 2023
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