This summer’s transfer window is arguably the biggest in Manchester United’s recent history. With a host of stars set to leave, and a whole new team expected at Old Trafford, the wheeling’s and dealings of the next transfer market could make or break the fortunes of this great club for the next few years.
However, it is unreasonable to ship out the whole squad and start completely from scratch. Ryan Giggs has said himself that the potential and quality within this current squad is there to see, it is just about unlocking that talent. After all, we were Champions by 11 points just 12 months ago.
Whoever the new manager may be, he certainly has a job on his hands when it comes to the transfer market, but as Tottenham have shown, spending an instant fortune may not be the way forward. Three or four big name signings are likely, rather than seven or eight and four or five to leave, rather than nine or ten, is much more likely to happen.
I will be discussing some potential targets that could become Manchester United players over the summer.
Let us start off in goal.
We arguably have one of the best goalkeepers in the world in David De Gea. The first few months of his United career were a struggle, with a few mistakes and a lack of physicality and authority seeing him come under intense pressure from outside the club. But typical of United, we have stuck by the Spaniard, and he has developed into one of the world’s best in his position, less than three years after joining the club, as he walked away with the Players’ Player and Fans’ Player of the Year awards just last Thursday. Speculation linking him to Real Madrid is likely to be false, and his Atletico ties put that further into doubt. Aged just 23, we certainly have our number one for years to come.
Anders Lindegaard, 30, and Ben Amos 24, have shown their quality when given the opportunity, and Sam Johnstone – who has been on loan at Doncaster this season – is only 21 and signed a new contract at the beginning of the year. All provide reasonable back-up to De Gea, so in my eyes a search for a new keeper is out of the question.
Moving on to the full-back positions; at right-back Rafael remains rash despite his fantastic ability to attack from the back. His injury record is a concern so a back-up or competition for a place in the Staring XI is needed.
Nathaniel Clyne and Seamus Coleman have been linked in the past, and both would provide Premier League experience. However, Clyne turned down the chance to United when he left Crystal Palace, in favour of a move to Southampton, for the chance of regular first team football. Does Clyne possess the quality to play at right back at the highest level? He has lost his place to 19 year old Calum Chambers at Southampton this season and most would view him as a downgrade on Rafael, though a good option as a back-up. It is unlikely that he will leave Southampton after the season they have enjoyed. The same goes for Coleman at Everton. Discovered by David Moyes, Coleman may have found a move to United tempting had the Scot still been in charge, but with a new manager imminent, Coleman is on the brink of a new contract at the Toffees, and, like De Gea, walked away with both Player of the Year awards, as well as making the PFA Team of the Year.
Santiago Arias of PSV has been mentioned, and with Louis Van Gaal expected to take over, he is one who watches the Dutch League closely so would already have seen Arias in action, but would be a potential risk at making that step up so soon, after just one good season.
Switching over to left-back and one name that dominates this position when it comes to a successor to Patrice Evra is Luke Shaw. Having made nearly 70 appearances for Southampton, when he is not even 19, is some achievement. He has made England’s World Cup squad, and I’m sure United would have taken him back with them after Sunday’s game, with a £27m bid having been lodged by United.
Alex Buttner has the Dutch connection should Van Gaal take over, and he wouldn’t be a bad back-up to whoever the first choice would be.
Fabio Coentrao of Real Madrid is another named been touted with, but he has recently become the Galactico’s first choice left-back, and ex-Red Cristiano Ronaldo has urged his fellow countryman to remain at the Bernabeu.
On to centre-back and Tuesday night saw an emotional farewell to captain Nemanja Vidic. Rio Ferdinand’s contract is up, and although he has announced his desire to remain at the club, his age and injury woes would mean a lack of game time if he indeed does end up staying.
Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling are likely to remain and will see this as an opportunity to step up, but like Rio, all have had persistent injury troubles during their time at United.
Michael Keane and Tom Thorpe are youngsters ready to pounce should the first team opportunity arrive, but an experienced head at the back is essential.
Mats Hummels of Borussia Dortmund is one of the top centre-halves around, and with Shinji Kagawa set to stay after his agent claimed he won’t leave, the Japanese star could help Hummels settle in, having played together during their time together over in Germany.
It is rumoured that Ezequial Garay had all but signed a deal for him to become a United player last summer, until Moyes opted against it when he arrived. Garay is another experienced head who could help bring along the likes of Jones, Smalling and Evans, as well as bringing some stability to the defence.
Younger players like Joel Veltman – a product of Ajax’s famous academy – and Eliaquim Mangala of Porto, could be one’s for the future, with Mangala’s Porto teammate Nicolas Otamendi another option who would be cheap and surely attracted to the prospect of playing for United.
Central midfield is probably the main position that needs strengthening over the summer. Tom Cleverley has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford and has failed to live up to expectations, and Marouane Fellaini just isn’t a Manchester United player in my eyes. Ryan Giggs is expected to retire, but, even if not, he cannot carry the team, whilst Anderson is expected to leave, which leaves a 32-year-old Michael Carrick and 30-year-old Darren Fletcher, who has only recently returned from his serious illness. Both have been fantastic servants to the club, and in Fletcher’s case it is great to see him back playing, but more creativity, flare and a box-to-box type midfielder are needed.
Juventus have Arturo Vidal, Claudio Marchisio and Paul Pogba amongst their ranks, and all would fit into any side, but all are unlikely to leave the Serie A champions, or if so, are unlikely to join United, especially former stalwart Pogba.
Ilkay Gundogan’s season has been ruined by injury, and as a result missed out on Germany’s provisional 30 man World Cup squad. He also signed a one year contract extension a couple of months ago, keeping him at Dortmund until 2016.
Two realistic targets are Cesc Fabregas and Kevin Strootman. Both would be ideal for United’s midfield and both would be attainable. Fabregas would know Robin van Persie from his Arsenal days, and will know Juan Mata and De Gea from the Spanish National side. Reports have suggested he has told van Persie he wants to join United, with Barcelona wanting to get rid of him whilst they can, to obtain a reasonable price for the ex-Gunners star. Strootman would provide the Dutch link, and Van Gaal could persuade him to join United, but he only joined Roma last summer, so the Italian giants would be reluctant to sell.
Out wide and Adnan Januzaj has rose to fame this season, Antonio Valencia has endured two indifferent seasons, and Wilfried Zaha is to return from his loan spell at Cardiff. However, question marks linger over Ashley Young and Nani, with both having enough opportunities to impress. On their day, both wingers are unplayable, but both are too inconsistent for a club of such magnitude.
Another player with a Dutch connection is one Arjen Robben. He has recently come out full of praise for Van Gaal, putting his form down to the man who signed him for Bayern Munich back in 2009, as well as managing him in the Netherlands National Team, and backed the 62-year-old for success should he take over the reins at United. Having turned 30 back in February, and having won everything at Bayern, many feel he should leave the German champions, for one last big move of his career. He knows the Premier League well from his time at Chelsea, can play on both flanks, and has that eye for goal. Pep Guardiola’s style of play at Bayern isn’t suited to Robben’s strengths, so maybe he is a serious target for United to pursue.
German international Marco Reus is an interesting one. He can play on either wing, behind the striker, or as a striker himself. In recent weeks, Reus has refused to commit his future to Dortmund, until a recent interview with German magazine Kicker, where he expressed his desire to stay at Dortmund next season.
Another player Barcelona are looking to sell is Alexis Sanchez. Close to signing for United before joining the Catalan club, the Chilean is another who can play on both wings.
Adam Lallana can also do a job on either wing, has experience of the Premier League, and has been named in England’s World Cup squad. However, reports suggest he would opt for a move to Liverpool instead, and the Anfield club has allegedly made a bid for the 26-year-old.
One quality winger added to Valencia and Januzaj, and then we could have three talented players in this position jostling it out for a starting birth. Not forgetting Shinji Kagawa has regularly been used on the left since joining United.
And finally to the attack and United have one of the best attacks around. Even if Javier Hernandez leaves as expected, United can boast an attacking trio of Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and van Persie.
Youngsters Angelo Henriquez and James Wilson are highly rated and could be integrated into the side, with the likes of Mata and Kagawa revelling in roles just behind the striker.
Jesse Lingard and Nick Powell will return from respective loan spells at Brighton and Wigan. They too can provide the option of tucking in just behind the striker. Zaha can do a job up front, with Januzaj another option in the number ten role.
Edinson Cavani has apparently been flattered by United’s persistent following of him. The Uruguayan is rumoured to have fallen out with former United player Laurent Blanc (manager of PSG), and is frustrated at being utilised out wide to accommodate Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It would be hard to say no to him should the opportunity to sign him arise, however, he would cost a hefty fee, and the wealth of attacking options for United in this region should be enough for the foreseeable future.
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