Jack Grealish faces battle to prove himself to Manchester United again after ignoring coronavirus advice

James Robson
REUTERS

Jack Grealish has to convince Ole Gunnar Solskjaer he can be a leader off the pitch to salvage a move to Manchester United.

The Aston Villa playmaker’s outstanding performances this season placed him high on United’s wishlist this summer. But a £60m move is now in jeopardy after the 24-year-old flouted the coronavirus lockdown.

Ed Woodward has already declared this summer an “important opportunity” for Solskjaer’s revolution – and key to that is securing the “right” characters.

United will now have to be confident Grealish’s actions on Sunday night when attending a get-together with friends was a one off, rather than indicative of a wider issue with his attitude.

On the face of it, it smacked of a pampered Premier League superstar living in a bubble – completely detached from the real world.

(Getty Images)

It’s notable that at a time when Grealish was guilty of crass hypocrisy, Marcus Rashford has been dedicating his efforts to ensuring children on free school meals will continue to be fed during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Rashford symbolises Solskjaer’s cultural reset at Old Trafford.

As much as the Norwegian has been focused on returning United to winning ways – he has also been determined to reconnect the team with the fans.

Rashford – home-grown, Manchester through and through – has become a talisman this season.

Meanwhile, ultimate professionals like Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay are seen as relatable to the average fan in the stand.

Now Solskjaer must decide if Grealish is worth the risk – or if he comes with the type of baggage that could destabilise the work he’s done since overseeing a ruthless cull of the squad he inherited from Jose Mourinho.

A hallmark of his reign so far has been his diligent and patient approach to transfers.

(PA)

He went without signing a striker last summer, rather than bringing in potentially the wrong one.

He sought references from Cristiano Ronaldo before signing Bruno Fernandes in January – and has had reports on top summer target Jadon Sancho.

Grealish, along with James Maddison, are seen as ideal candidates to take up the much-needed No10 at United – and there’s been little to choose between the two of them.

Grealish is expected to be the cheaper option, which could be crucial in a summer when Solskjaer plans to address a number of key positions.

His leadership on the pitch has also impressed while playing for a relegation-threatened side.

But he has become a poster boy for all the wrong reasons in recent days – and that is something Solskjaer takes very seriously. He totally buys into the belief that footballers must set the right example and be role models to millions of fans.

When taking over 15 months ago he immediately imposed new rules instructing players to wear a suit and tie on matchdays and to sign autographs for fans.

Maguire was handed the captain’s armband just months after signing – signalling the lack of leaders he felt he had in the dressing room.

And Rashford, McTominay, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Mason Greenwood and Brandon Williams symbolise a new generation at Old Trafford.

He believes Sancho will fit in perfectly, while Grealish and Maddison were seen as in-keeping with his rebuild.

Maddison also wanted by United. (Getty Images)

Maddison was guilty of a misdemeanour himself when going to a casino after being deemed too unwell to play for England earlier this season.

While Solskjaer is a huge admirer of the playmaker’s quality, United are also aware Leicester could demand in the region of £80m, as they did with Maguire last summer.

Which is one of the reasons Grealish has risen in their thoughts over the season.

But he did himself no favours on Sunday night – with his subsequent apology doing little to change the court of public opinion at a time when frontline workers are risking their health on a daily basis.

This is the same player who was pictured sprawled in the street while on holiday in Tenerife five years ago.

While that could be shrugged off as youthful exuberance, what of this latest incident? Grealish is an outstanding talent for sure – and looks tailor-made to thrive at Old Trafford.

But Solskjaer’s revolution is absolutely dependent on getting it right in the transfer market.

So far, so good – but he needs another perfect window in the summer to turn United into genuine contenders next season.

With that in mind, is Grealish worth the risk?

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