While we wait for the Manchester United board to make their moves and talk to their transfer targets’ clubs, here are the five players we think the club should target if they are looking to improve from their second-placed finish in the Premier League last season.
United’s transfer target from summer, when the club expected Borussia Dortmund to reduce their asking price by the end of the transfer window and were surprised that not every club runs a 50% sale on the last day.
It’s a genuine concern that United may do the same thing this summer as well – although Dortmund have reportedly marginally reduced their asking price, their policy is the same as last season – if there isn’t an acceptable offer by the time Dortmund’s pre-season camp starts, they don’t want the player to leave.
Even at the reported £80m, Sancho will be an excellent addition to United where he can play on either flank, but he will need the right players around him to excel. And with that in mind, here’s #2:
Aaron Wan-Bissaka is the undisputed first-choice right-back at United with his best years still ahead of him. And yet he is not considered enough of an attacking threat to be in the top four English right-backs, with Kyle Walker, Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kieran Trippier considered ahead of him.
With United clearly pursuing a core of English players at different levels of experience, 30-year-old Trippier would bring top-level experience and quality to the right side of United’s flank. Coupled with Sancho or Greenwood on the right, Trippier would help United switch from their usual counter-attacking game to a more forward, breaking-down-deep-defences game that has been lacking in recent seasons.
United can easily rotate Trippier and Wan-Bissaka, give each player 30-odd games in a season. It would also allow them to send out promising young players like Ethan Laird and Brandon Williams out on loan to Championship or Premier League clubs in search for regular minutes.
But the defence isn’t sorted just by signing a right-back. What United really need is a new centre back, and his name is…
As a fan, there’s a preference for Jules Kounde – he is more versatile, potentially better on the ball and with a higher ceiling. However, United are heavily invested in Harry Maguire as their primary right-sided centre back, and have spoken about the need for a left-sided centre back.
Torres fits the bill. He’s tall, assured on the ball, left-footed and crucially, a better defender than Viktor Lindelof and Eric Bailly. From a United standpoint, he’s also cheaper than a Kounde or a Milan Skriniar.
We’re not jumping on the Sergio Ramos hype train – if Ramos is really going to leave Real Madrid due to his refusal to accept a wage cut, he is more likely to go to Paris Saint-Germain than come to Manchester – so assuming there is no surprise Ramos deal, Torres is the way to go.
This is one of those transfers that should have been sorted out last summer, and not fixing this problem area has cost United progress in the Champions League as well as a genuine title challenge.
But this isn’t the only thing that needs urgent fixing. United also need a midfield upgrade, and the most realistic option is…
If you were watching Manchester United lost to Chelsea in April 2006, you’ll remember the sheer incompetence of the United midfield then. The current United side needs someone who can come in, shield the defence, make interceptions and crucially, pass well to start attacks.
A personal preference would be Eduardo Camavinga, but United need a player ready to play 50 games a season, not a youngster who can be allowed to make mistakes. Declan Rice is an excellent option but would be priced over £80m, and United cannot rely on the Fred-Scott McTominay partnership for another season.
Saul would be (marginally) cheaper than Rice, and just as good an option for the club. Crucially, he would allow Pogba and Bruno Fernandes to play with more freedom and will add cohesion to an already formidable attacking unit.
All attacking units need a focal point, and this may United’s ace in the hole.
Nostalgia is heroin for old people, but Ronaldo is neither nostalgia nor too old. Still operating at a high level, the addition of an elite striker like Ronaldo will give United the edge in games they inexplicably kept drawing or losing last season.
With one year left on his Juventus contract, there is a chance he will stay and walk as a free agent (possibly to PSG). His salary will be the major sticking point but United would be incredibly potent with Cavani/Ronaldo up front and Rashford/Greenwood/Sancho on the wings, with Pogba and Fernandes coming through the middle.
United are not champions. This season, more than any other, was a chance to change that, and an opportunity missed. Next season may still see their rivals in flux – and provide United with the opportunity to strike.
Of course, all of this relies on two things:
- United being able to reduce their wage bill and shift unwanted players.
- A United board willing to spend more to strengthen their team.
This is a board that hasn’t been able to move ageing players out and was not willing to back Jose Mourinho after a three-trophy, second-placed finish. They are unlikely to back Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in a pandemic.
If United sign two out of the five discussed above, consider that a success and honestly, beyond expectations. If they get three (especially if that’s a winger, midfielder and central defender), you might see fans talking about a title challenge again.
And like it or not, that is what you need – a club looking to make progress on the pitch, and not just content with increasing it’s value off it.
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