20th December 2017.
Despite the rising transfer market spend of Europe's biggest and best clubs, most prefer to keep their power dry in the January window, moving only if absolutely necessary, and even then often opting for stop-gap arrivals, with the major business saved for the summer.
But that might not be the case for Manchester United this coming January. The Red Devils, trailing neighbours Manchester City by 11 points at the top of the Premier League, could be about to address a number of their squad's deficiencies in the mid-season window, reportedly on the lookout for a full-back and a winger, with departures not ruled out either.
According to manager JosÃ© Mourinho, United, whose most notable January successes of the recent past include Patrice Evra, Nemanja Vidi? and Juan Mata, will swoop if a key target becomes available. "I'm not a big defender of the January market but there are players and situations that sometimes you have the chance to do and you shouldn't lose that chance," the Portuguese tactician said in December.
"I don't like the January market. But if you can buy a player that you would buy in June and you have the chance to get him a few months before then great."
And top of Mourinho's winter wishlist is Bordeaux's versatile and dynamic attacker Malcom. "With a budget of about £80m to strengthen his squad for the second half of the season," reports the Sunday Times, "JosÃ© Mourinho would like to add a genuine wide player and has put Malcom on a shortlist of targets."
The 20-year-old Brazilian has been lighting up Ligue 1 for Les Girodins this term, and it was only a matter of time before Europe's elite sat up and took notice. Playing predominantly from the right, the left-footer has caught the eye with a number of rasping long-range goals and a clutch ability to produce moments of magic when his team are most in need.
Mourinho was clear in his desire to add four players to his ranks over the summer, and the fact that only three were obtained Nemanja Mati?, Romelu Lukaku and Victor LindelÃ¶f had given rise to speculation that the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss would whip the chequebook out once again mid-season.
Having addressed his need for a striker, reinforced his midfield and bolstered his defence, it was widely reported that the final part of the jigsaw the United boss sought was a winger, someone capable of servicing Lukaku with crosses from wide.
Although Malcom is no traditional wide man, often looking to cut inside on to his stronger foot and able to play anywhere across the second line of attack, he has proved an impressive creative force throughout his time in Bordeaux.
Indeed, the Brazilian is currently averaging more attempted crosses (5.4 to 5.3) and more accurate crosses (1.5 to 0.8) per 90 minutes than Inter Milan's Ivan PeriÂši?, the man believed to be United's primary wide target during the summer window. And while the Croatian has registered more assists (six to four), Malcom has produced a higher expected assists (xA) a metric which measures the quality of each chance created by judging the likelihood of the subsequent shot being scored, based on historical data with 5.36 to 5.22.
What makes Malcom unique among the wide men the Red Devils have been linked with recently, though, is his unpredictability. Capable of dribbling on either side of his marker, the 20-year-old is a difficult man to plan for, producing quality regardless of which direction his is ushered in by the opposition, swinging crosses from wide and splitting defences with through-balls from central zones. "You have to attack your full-back, really go at him," the youngster said when describing his style as a 17-year-old. "I have always looked to do that, like Robinho and Neymar do."
Malcom, despite his relative inexperience, already has that most coveted attribute among young creative attackers: end product. For all his flashy skills and eye-catching technique, he has been Bordeaux's most reliable forward player this season, scoring seven times in the league (matching his tally from the whole last term in 21 fewer appearances) and producing 2.7 dribbles a higher average than any United player bar Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial (2.9) and 2.4 key passes topped only by Henrikh Mkhitaryan per 90.
Of his seven goals, four have been scored from outside the penalty area, with spectacular strikes against Lyon, Saint-Ã‰tienne and Dijon all shared frantically around social media this season and further augmenting his already impressive highlight reel.
As is often the case in a World Cup year, players with international ambitions will be reticent to switch club sides this January for fear of upsetting their selection hopes ahead of next summer's tournament in Russia. However, the opposite could be true of Malcom, who is somehow still uncapped for Brazil: a high-profile mid-season transfer might be required in order to get the attention of SeleÃ§Ã£o boss Tite.
Bordeaux won't let him go without a fight, though. The Times' report suggested United were confident of striking a deal with the French side to the tune of around £26 million, but it seems far more likely that a figure closer to £40 million will be required, with Malcom's price increasing with every stellar display or jaw-dropping strike from distance.
Bordeaux president StÃ©phane Martin is adamant the club's prized asset will not be leaving Matmut Atlantique in January. "He will not leave this winter," he toldÂ L'Equipe. "What if we got an immediate loan deal back? I don't see that being in the interests of the club to do that. We've not spoken about it and it's not something we're working on."
But, having signed the gifted attacker for just £4 million from Corinthians in January 2015, Bordeaux would have to show impressive resolve to resist the kind of offers that could soon be flooding in for Malcom.
This article has been written exclusively for Soccer Box, an online store where you can shop for all the 2017/18 Manchester United football kit, by Ryan Baldi.Â
Analysing Malcom - Man United's Top Target for Winter 2018
20th December 2017.