Exclusive – Manchester United are one of four Premier League clubs who have been impressed with Rangers captain James Tavernier, with the 29-year-old right-back now emerging as a viable transfer alternative to Kieran Trippier for the Red Devils.
Bradford-born Tavernier made 10 appearances for Newcastle early in his career but struggled to make his mark on loan at several different League One clubs, before eventually finding his feet with a 2015 move to a Rangers side then in the Scottish Championship.
Tavernier has grown alongside the rejuvenated club ever since, playing nearly 300 games in all competitions over the last six seasons, and last month lifted the Scottish Premiership trophy.
He scored 19 goals in all competitions last season alone, 10 of which came from the penalty spot, but also laid on 16 assists for teammate to score.
Tavernier was rewarded with a new three-year contract at Ibrox as recently as April and he remains more than happy in Glasgow. But Arsenal, Brighton, Norwich and even Manchester United are taking an interest and could test Rangers’ resolve to keep their skipper ahead of the new season.
The Scottish champions have been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, yielding a £15.9m operating loss for 2019/20, on top of existing annual losses long before the pandemic struck.
Further losses will be expected when the 2020/21 accounts are finalised, putting pressure on Rangers to raise investment where possible and perhaps meaning they cannot afford to turn down any substantial offers for Tavernier should they come.
Manchester United are on the hunt for a right-back to provide cover and competition for usual starter Aaron Wan-Bissaka and have previously shown serious interest in England star Trippier. But Atletico Madrid are holding out for a higher fee than United have so far been willing to pay and the Old Trafford club now have Tavernier on their radar as a potentially cheaper alternative.
Besides United, Arsenal are also monitoring Tavernier, with Hector Bellerin's unresolved future putting the Gunners in the market for a right-back as part of a wider squad rebuild.
Meanwhile Brighton’s impressive Tariq Lamptey only managed 11 appearances last season because of long-term injury and the Seagulls are keeping an eye out for options in the market. Newly promoted Norwich, who could lose Max Aarons, are the other Premier League side interested.