The closure of the English transfer window on Thursday has ushered a rather gloomy canvas at Old Trafford before the start of the new Premier League season. Majority of the club's 19.9 million twitter followers made their opinions loud and clear as 'Woodward Out' trended on the social media website upon closure of the summer transfer window.
Talking to the English press in the lead up to the Red Devil's high octane clash against Chelsea, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stressed that the club was looking at players who had the right attitude towards the team's prospects.
“I said earlier in pre-season, last season as well, it's not about a quick fix. It's about a longer rebuild. It's about getting the right players, the right people in, and it's not time to suddenly, [in] the last three days, change that attitude when you haven't got the right ones, you haven't got the right people, you haven't got the right players, or you haven't got the answers, the correct answers, maybe, from the players that you wanted to have."
Solskjaer is not the type of man to complain about the situation in front of him, and it does appear that he is genuinely excited about the young academy graduates tat his disposal in the form of Angel Gomes, Tahith Chong, and Mason Greenwood. The most likely of the lot to get regular game-time seems to be the Bradford born 17-year-old, Greenwood. Having already scored twice in United's pre-season tour, the double footed forward will benefit due to the departure of Romelu Lukaku on the transfer deadline day.
It is, however, highly unfair to expect these youngsters to pull the Red Devils towards a title-contending season. Solskjaer's men can certainly benefit with some world-class additions to the squad, bringing experience and composure during pressure games. Moreover, Ed Woodward could watch the fans' displeasure backtrack minutely if he makes any additions after the closure of the window.
The only possible route for these conundrums to solve is through the free agency market, which allows English clubs to sign players beyond the transfer window. Having said that, free agents are without contracts for valid reasons. It is highly unlikely that any top tier club would fix their on-field issues through signing free agents (although, Juventus have made a name for themselves by recruiting world-class free agents).
We look at three potential free agents who may not give a permanent solution to Manchester United's recent departures, but could reasonably improve the squad depth and bring invaluable experience in the dressing room. Having identified three areas (central midfield, striker and right-wing) which still need additions, here are the three options:
#3 Franck Ribéry
A French icon and Bayern Munich legend, Franck Ribery is a surprising name in the free agents' list this summer. Nine Bundesliga titles, a Champions League title, six German Cups and European player of the year in 2012-13 measures a career which will be remembered and cherished in the city of Munich for long. Ribery signed off his time at Bayern with a signature goal against Eintracht Frankfurt on the last day of the Bundesliga season 2018-19, signaling that he can still deliver an occasional cameo late in a game.
Although the superstar is on the wrong side of his thirties, Manchester United could enjoy his late-game bursts from the right-wing where the team has always been light since the departure of Nani in 2015. He would also bring in home comfort for the turbulent Paul Pogba, who is the key for the team's success in the season.
#2 Claudio Marchisio
For a 33-year-old seven-time Serie A winner, Claudio Marchisio's tenure at Zenit Saint Petersburg was rather flimsy. It is surprising to see the Italian central midfielder being without a contract this summer after he left the Russian club on mutual consent. In the 9 games he started for Zenit, Marchisio showed glimpses of his class and composure in the midfield.
It is no secret that the Reds were in the market for a central midfielder who could fill the void created by Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini. Brazilian recruit Fred has blown hot and cold during his tenure at the club with Scott McTominay pushing the samba boy to finish higher on the pecking order. Marchisio still has a couple of seasons left in him and if used sparingly, the Italian could make an impact as a workload sharer with Nemanja Matić.
#1 Fernando Llorente
With the sale of Lukaku to Italian giants Inter Milan, United have lost about 15 potential league goals the Belgian forward would have brought. Even an out-of-touch Lukaku always brought his physical game to the fore, outmuscling center-backs and creating space for the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard. With the forward gone, United do not have any physical presence in the final third on the bench.
Spain's Fernando Llorente could solve this issue during the coming season, starting on the bench and only coming on the pitch for his aerial abilities. In the Champions League second leg semi-final against Ajax, Tottenham was trailing 0-3 to the Dutch side. Mauricio Pochettino brought on Llorente at half-time, using him as a target man. Llorente, in turn, won 13 out of 17 aerial duels against the Dutch center back pairing of Matthijs de Ligt and Daley Blind, releasing Lucas Moura to score a second-half hattrick and taking Spurs to the Champions League final.
It would do Solskjaer no harm in having a Plan-B on the sidelines when the game demands so. The club was also rumored to be in the pursuit of the 6ft 4in forward during the wee hours of the deadline day, but nothing concrete came of it.Published 10 Aug 2019, 15:47 IST