Where do Manchester United need to strengthen?
With one eye on the transfer window, Manchester United will have shortlisted the players they want to bring in to the club this summer.
There will be plenty of speculation surrounding who they might go for, and things can change drastically in a volatile market such as football’s, but here are the positions in which José Mourinho will be firmly looking to recruit for.
There have been a few issues at centre-back this season. It did not help with Eric Bailly going to the African Cup of Nations and leaving a gaping hole in defence. However, the surprise of the season has been Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones’ fruitful relationship at the back, but a team like Manchester United cannot compete in all competitions with those two defenders.
Chris Smalling has been relatively poor and shaky in defence, with no signs of improvement. He’s been operating at the same level for two years now and is not a top-tier centre-back that will be challenging for the Premier League title.
Providing things go smoothly, Victor Lindelöf of Benfica will join Manchester United in the summer as a first-team centre-back. There were talks of a deal happening in January, but the many complications with paying his former club, Västerås SK, held up contract negotiations. Lindelöf is a no-nonsense defender, which is exactly what Mourinho’s team needs, providing he can keep a cool head.
Other names floating around is Atletico Madrid’s José Giménez and Paris Saint-Germain’s Marquinhos, but at the moment those are purely flirtatious engagements and nothing concrete.
While Antonio Valencia has been superb under both Louis van Gaal and Mourinho, he also needs an understudy and some competition. Italian defender Matteo Darmian has had, in truth, a difficult time in Manchester and has not properly settled into one set position.
The Ecuadorian international spoke very highly of the Portuguese manager: “Mourinho’s definitely given me an incredible amount of confidence.” Surprisingly, Valencia has found his home at right-back after spells in central midfield and, more commonly, down the right wing.
There has been strong interest in AS Monaco’s Fabinho - who can also play as a defensive midfielder. Mourinho likes versatility and so he may well be the favourite to join the Red Devils, given Carrick’s inevitable decline in form.
(Video Courtesy: WorldOfFootballHD YouTube Channel)
There has been talk of Timothy Fosu-Mensah being a permanent fixture in Manchester United’s squad, but that should not be at right-back. While he has impressed in that area for the Red Devils, his most comfortable position is sitting at the base of midfield.
Michael Carrick replacement
Unfortunately for Manchester United fans, Michael Carrick cannot play on forever. He is bound to the same convention as the rest of us: time. While still playing some of his best football at the tender age of 35 - just like Zlatan Ibrahimovic - the former England international will eventually have to call it a day.
And there should be no time wasting in bringing Carrick’s replacement in this summer, unlike what the Red Devils did after the departure of Roy Keane and Paul Scholes.
Also Read: Paul Pogba: Has he overcome the price tag?
Once again, it appears Mourinho is very keen on Monaco’s team and has highlighted Tiemoué Bakayoko as a potential defensive midfielder next season. Like Fabinho, he is being heavily scouted by Man United - as well as from the rest of Europe.
(Video Courtesy: ScoutNationHD YouTube Channel)
Left Back (potentially)
There is no denying that Luke Shaw has had a tumultuous season so far, with no sign of the situation becoming immediately rectified.
Manchester United have Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo and Matteo Darmian currently rotating at left-back position, but none are of the excellence that the Red Devils need in that position.
Shaw has bags of potential, but he needs to find a remedy to please Mourinho and get a good run going in the first-team.
Manchester United are hoping that the England international’s form vastly improves before locating a replacement, but the season’s ticking on and important fixtures are arriving fast. If Shaw cannot find himself back in the starting XI before the end of the season, he could quite easily be sold on.