What to expect from Manchester United in the transfer window
With the bare minimum target of finishing in the top 4 achieved, Manchester United and Louis Van Gaal have already shifted their focus to the transfer market. And if rumours are to be believed, United, like last season, will again be spending heavily.
But the more important issue is, unlike last season, United will have to address the deficiencies of the squad rather than buying high profile names simply because they are available. And with the all important Champions League play-off scheduled in August, United, like all good clubs, would do well to close out all the deals before the beginning of August.
And if early signs are an indication of things to come, it looks good for the United fans. The signing of the Dutch winger Memphis Depay has already been announced. Although he is not the finished product by any stretch of imagination, one look at the lad’s play and you realize that the potential is endless.
Here’s a look at the various positions where United need immediate reinforcements, as well the probable and possible candidates who might take the road to the theatre of dreams.
If David de Gea leaves, which looks increasingly likely with every passing day, United will need a new goalkeeper. Yes, we already have Valdes in our squad. It is one thing being the goalkeeper of an all-conquering team where you need to make a couple of saves per game. Quite another to be a goalkeeper in the most physically demanding league, without a world class defensive line to aid you.
So, if De Gea leaves, it is very much possible that United will go and buy a new goalkeeper. Tottenham’s Hugo Lloris and Chelsea’s Petr Cech are the most likely ones. Both are battle hardened and proven Premier League custodians.
On current form, Lloris is the better keeper. But getting him would mean dealing with Daniel Levy as well as paying a considerable amount of money as transfer fee.
Although Mourinho would do everything in his power to not sell to a rival, given Cech’s lack of playing time at Chelsea and the lure of playing for United, don’t be surprised if the number 1 jersey for the next season belongs to the Czech keeper.
This is the position where United definitely need 1 top reinforcement. Smalling and Jones both have displayed glimpses of their potential, but are way too inconsistent and have major fitness concerns. Marcos Rojo has also been good without being great. Blackett and McNair are not yet ready to lead the back-line.
United need someone in the mould of John Terry or Nemanja Vidic who could lead this young defence. And in today’s market, there aren’t many world class center backs who are available. This is the reason why City overpaid to such an extent for Mangala who turned out to be rather ordinary.
With Hummels unlikely to make the switch to England, Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte and Valencia’s Nicolas Otamendi are the most likely alternatives. Otamendi is tough and combative, and would lend a lot of physical presence to the defence. On the other hand, Laporte is currently seen as one of the best young defenders.
But if United are looking for someone to lead their young defence, Athelico’s Diego Godin would be the alternative. But none of them will come cheap, and it looks like United will have to spend in excess of 30 million pounds to get a quality defender. If United are not able to get any of their targets, then the fallback option will most likely be Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaar.
Although Antonio Valencia has had a decent season playing at right back, but going forward he cannot continue to remain United’s first choice in the position. Rafael could never achieve the heights everyone thought he would.
So, getting a right back, who is defensively sound and can also threaten while going forward, will be a priority. Nathaniel Clyne of Southampton would be the perfect guy and should come within 20 million pounds. If for some reason this does not happen, Madrid’s Dani Carvajal might make the switch from Spain to England.
If Sir Alex Ferguson can be held guilty of something, it has to be his inability to find a replacement for Paul Scholes before leaving, and allowing the transfer of Paul Pogba.
For the last 5-6 years, United have been struggling in this part of the field. The signing of Ander Herrera last season was a step in the right direction. But with Michael Carrick getting close to 35 and being injury prone, United need to sign at least 1 or possibly 2 central midfielders.
This season, the trio of Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Herrera emerged as the best combination in midfield. But for all of Fellaini’s strengths and his renaissance this season, there are days when he looks a total misfit in this system. Fellaini can be a good plan B when United are chasing a game in the last 30 minutes, but not someone who can start every game at a club like United.
Currently, the players linked to United are Dortmund’s Gundogan and Bayern’s Schweinsteiger. Both of them have just 1 year left in their contracts and should be available for around 25 million pounds. Van Gaal has worked with Schweinsteiger at Bayern, and is a big admirer. Schweinsteiger is extremely versatile and can easily play different roles in midfield.
But with him being on the wrong side of 30 and having an injury prone season this year, signing him will not be without risks. The second option is Gundogan. He is brilliant on the ball, and would fit Van Gaal’s philosophy perfectly.
Apart from this, the Juventus duo of Pogba and Vidal might also be available in the market. Although at this point, it does not look likely that either will end up at Old Trafford for next season.
Another option would be to buy a top class holding midfielder in the mould of Matic. This breed of players do not look pretty while playing football, but they win you Premier League titles. Although having such a player is currently not in Van Gaal’s scheme of things, but United definitely need a holding player, especially for big away matches.
One name that comes to the mind is Monaco’s Geoffrey Kondogbia. He was instrumental in Monaco’s run to the Champions League quarter-final. Plus, at 22 years of age, he is definitely someone who can serve the club for a decade.
United need a striker who can give them 25 goals a season. And on current form and fitness, they do not have one. Wayne Rooney is no longer the fearsome goalscorer he was once. Wilson is still a work in progress. Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie no longer look like players fit for the Premier League, and will most probably be shipped out in the summer.
United need someone like Sergio Aguero or Diego Costa, who can bully defenders. But, it is highly unlikely that they will get someone to lead the line. Thomas Mueller from Bayern would be a great but highly improbable addition. For now the fans can only hope that Rooney stays fit all season and returns to his 2009-2010 goalscoring form.
So, apart from the positions discussed, what would United do if someone like Gareth Bale is available? The answer would be to try and buy him. The reason being if Bale decides to come to England, and United do not buy him, the others will make a move. Just imagine what would happen if Chelsea sign him?
It would become impossible for the others to catch Chelsea. If Manchester City buy him, the trio of Silva, Bale and Aguero will rip defences apart. He is a proven customer in the Premier League and for all the boos, he has fared decently well for Madrid in the past 2 years. Selling Angel Di Maria to PSG and buying Bale would be a great deal in case it works out.
Van Gaal needs to act quickly to get all the players he needs to achieve his goals. At this point, money or Financial Fair Play is not a concern for United. This season despite finishing only 4th, the mood was celebratory at Old Trafford and Van Gaal was greeted with cheers. If United get the same results next year, instead of giving witty talks, the mad genius would be looking for a new job.