The season is virtually over now , and we can finally fix our attention to the long grueling drama/romance series that is the summer transfer window. For the next three months the rumor mills will be on overdrive, 24/7 with rumor after rumor virtually every minute. It’s a frustrating time for everyone who loves the sport,from clubs, fans ,managers and even the players. No one ever really knows what goes on behind the scenes, even the players themselves rely on the tabloids and ‘dependable’ journalists to have an idea of who will or will not be their team mates next season.
At United, we’re all full of expectation awaiting another summer of heavy spending, with 150 million spent last summer and rumors of a further 215 million war chest to be unleashed in our quest to become the top dogs in Europe and England again. This of course has been boosted by that massive 750 million sponsorship from Adidas, allowing us to spend huge sums of money on personnel needed to take us to the next level.
United spent 150 million on seven new players this season, and have subsequently come under heavy criticism, with critics magically expecting us to win the league on the back of such spending. Any football fan will know that it will take a bit more time, given the abyss that one David Moyes dragged us into, but on the evidence of this season, we are on the right track. United will finish fourth,(job done as far as the main objective is concerned) and are back in Europe’s elite competition albeit a play off permitting, and it is worth noting that we have had a great head to head record against the other top teams in the league only losing away at city and Chelsea, both marginally. Big games are not a problem for LVG and his boys. However as the manager rightly said, fourth is not an achievement worth celebrating at a club like United and to get us challenging for the league again we need to boost the areas that need the most attention: defense, midfield and attack.
I have spent much of the season analyzing our new manager and his squad,rather than looking at points on the board and all I can say is if we get the right players as soon as possible ,then we are challenging Chelsea for that title. I have absolute belief in the manager and his philosophy which has seen players brought out of the cold to literally spearhead united to a top four finish. Players like Ashley young, Marouane Fellaini and Chris Smalling, who has not put a foot wrong since that silly red at the Etihad, have grown in leaps and bounds over the past nine months thus bringing to pass the managers bold statement earlier in the season, when he said he can make any player a world class player. However, as I always say ,these are not plan A players and we need to sign more players to create healthy competition and increase the depth of the squad to be able to challenge on all fronts. Let us now take a look at the likely lads.
I don’t even need to say it, our defending has been shambolic all throughout the season, and its only the heroics of soon to be leaving David de Gea that spared us blushes against the likes of Everton, Burnley, Stoke and most recently Crystal Palace. Our star player seems to be leaving in the summer with the allure of being big in Madrid and ultimately Spain’s numero uno, coupled with the fact that his family and friends all reside in the Spanish capital is giving him a lot to think about. I will be sad to see De Gea leave (might even shed a tear as I did when the great Sir Alex called it a day) but I will wish him all the best when he leaves . We can’t dwell too much on that though, and the gaffer already assured us in his prematch presser before the Arsenal game that United already have a list of players in line to replace the Spaniard, should he leave. Whoever is in that list nobody knows ,but I’m sure as hell hoping it is either Hugo Lloris, Petr Cech or Asmir Begovic.
My first option here would obviously be Cech, who at 32 is still relatively young for a GK and has immense experience both domestically and in Europe. However, I don’t think Jose would directly sell to United ,who I’m sure he views as title challengers next season. But with this guy you never know, I mean he sold Chelsea’s player of the year for two straight seasons, Juan Mata to us in January 2014 . Add that to his secret love affair with United and who knows, the Czech republic stopper could be lining up for united next season.
Second option I would welcome with a shout in this position is France international and captain,Hugo Lloris. The Frenchman has had yet another great season between the sticks at Spurs and he would jump at the chance to play for one of the biggest teams in Europe and the world over. However the shrewd Daniel Levy would not let him go easy and on the cheap and I think it would take something in the excess of 20 million to secure his services. Not that money is an issue at united.
My third choice is Stoke stopper Asmir Begovic. He has been instrumental in keeping Stoke City a Premier League side over the years and is out of contract in 12 months,meaning stoke have two options, either run down his contract and risk losing him for free (provided he refuses to extend his contract) next summer or cash in on him now. Stoke have an able replacement in Jack Butland and when United come calling, players like Asmir Begovic cannot pass up such an opportunity.
In defense, all great keepers need level headed, mature and hard tackling defenders to help them to that coveted golden glove. Chris Smalling has shone this season, transforming into a leader from center back and the manager has certainly taken note of this handing him the armband against Arsenal at Old Trafford last weekend . Phil Jones has also been good and the pairing has done well when played together at the center of the defense. However I feel united still need a center back that is more established and experienced to take charge and shore up that department.
The first name that comes to mind is Dortmund captain and world cup winner Mats Hummels. United have been tracking the center back ever since the latter stages of Fergie’s era and rumors sufficed that he even promised the Scot that he would join United at some point in his career. Hummels is a good defender,but to me he is not all that. He is better than what we have at the moment, but we need a Vidic-esque defender, a spartan, a warrior that will marshal that defense as soundly as the Serbian did. In some quotas, Hummels is referred to as the rich man’s Johnny Evans, but if United manage to procure his services, he is certainly a step up on the current crop of defenders (
read Johnny Evans) and with a manager like Van Gaal we expect instant improvement from the German.
A player who closely follows the German center back in my wish list is Valencia’s Argentine center back Nicolas Otamendi. Reports from Guillem Balague, a Spanish football expert, suggest that the Argentine international is keen to seek a new challenge in England, with United and Arsenal the likely destinations for the 27 year old. The fact that the agency that partly owns him, Doyeln(sp) sports also had a say in Marcos Rojo’s deal to United in the summer may swing the pendulum United’s way.what I like most is his style of play, have watched him a few times for Valencia (about three times, actually ) this season and he seems perfect for van Gaal’s policy . The manager wants a ball playing center back, and Otamendi is confident enough to play the ball out of defense rather than just hoof it hopefully up-field in the name of a clearance. He is also a beast physically and a good reader of the game, not afraid to try the spectacular from distance when forward like his compatriot Rojo, and gives his all for the team.
Still in defense, there is need to secure the services of another right back. Rafael seems out of favor with the manager, having featured very little for united this season and subsequently relegated to the under 21 reserve team. Valencia has been solid at that position for the most part,but is not a natural defender. The names that come to mind for me here are Nathaniel Clyne and Seamus Coleman. Both are speedy right backs who can maraud down the right in attack and have the fitness and athleticism to track back and snuff out any attack. Both have Premier League experience and if you’d ask me to choose, I’d go for the Saints’ right back. He has electric pace and his deliveries into the box are not too bad either. Contract talks between his current club Southampton and him are ongoing and reports suggest he may not leave just yet, but I think the allure of United, European football and a reunion with former teammate Shaw could play a huge role in bringing the 23 year old to old Trafford.
Lastly, and still at right back is Barcelona right back Dani Alves. United have been linked to the Brazilian over the past year or so and the player is out of contract at the end of the season. His agent (who is his ex wife, can you believe it?) says that a deal with a top club is almost done, prompting the rumor mills to name that top club to be United. However at 32 , time is almost up for him but to get such an experienced player on a free would be something I would more than welcome.
United have not done too badly in midfield this season, with my outfield player of the season, Ander Herrera, proving to be a great signing. Di Maria has had an average at best season bar statistics, and the other summer acquisition, Daley Blind, has done relatively well when deployed in the ‘deep six role’ most notably at the base of the midfield when playing the 4-4-2 diamond earlier in the season. Micheal Carrick has been the key man in midfield over the past few seasons but age is catching up with the England man, and there is need for an able replacement. Dortmund midfielder İlkay Gündoğan has been linked with united over the years and wants out of the German outfit, but it is suggested that Arsenal are already in talks with the Turkish midfield king pin and United will face a fight on their hands from Arsenal to secure his services. Gündoğan is a quality player overall, but has struggled with injuries at Dortmund and there are major question marks surrounding the niggling back problem that has kept him out for a big chunk of his career over the past two seasons. If he can manage to shake that off and convince United of his fitness in the coming months (even weeks), then united have to work to get him to Old Trafford.
The other option that I would love to see fill this slot is (you guessed it), prodigal son Paul Pogba. Otherwise known as Fergie’s biggest blunder, Pogba is now one of the top five best footballers in the game currently. Voted best young player at the World Cup, the French international is sought after by all big clubs in Europe and will always be throughout his career. He looks set to join the elites at Madrid though and has previously stated that he does not have anything against United as a club. It’s a long shot but if the chance is there, I think united and Ed Woodward should at least try lure him back home.
United have already secured the services of highly rated youngster Memphis Depay, who will inject the much needed pace that United sorely lack in attack this season. I don’t see the need for another winger, with rumors of Gareth Bale coming to United after only two seasons at Madrid increasing by the day. Bale is a quality player but I don’t see the need for him,unless of course we offload ‘flop’ di Maria’,which would be dumb to say the least.
Our strikers have let us down horribly during LVG’s first season in England. The only player who has looked like a proper marksman and the 20 goal a season striker that the gaffer wants striker is captain, Wayne Rooney. RvP is a pale shadow of his former devastating self and Radamel Falcao..well..no need to delve into that. Before we go shopping and brandishing huge cheques, we should look closer home in the form of James Wilson. The lad has crazy pace and his finishing for the under 21s has been devastating over the past year. He broke into the first team late last season and bagged a brace with two well taken efforts against Hull. He has had stints in and out of the first team and has managed to score in the league away at QPR. Still only a teenager, the lad has a long way to go but LVG promised to give youth a chance,and he has done with the likes of Blackett,, McNair Perreira and Jesse Lingard getting brief stints and cameo roles in the first team. The gaffer isn’t afraid to play the player that he thinks is best suited and evidence of this is when he won the champions league with Ajax in 1994, with 18 year old Kluivert scoring the winner. I am an admirer of the James and I’m looking forward to seeing him play more next season or at least go on loan and get his chance to prove that he is worthy a start week in week out.
There are a host of players I would want to see united sign in this department. Top of my list is the big Belgian, Christian Benteke. Benteke has all the qualities to succeed at United, and has been sensational for villa. He has the physicality and is a top top finisher, his hat-trick against QPR is testament to that. I’m sure he would be open to a move and would come on the cheap(relatively) . I would love to see him adorn the number nine for the mighty Manchester United. Another cut price option I would not mind is Burnley’s hit man Danny Ings. the Englishman is quick and has shone for his side although they got relegated. LVG sent scouts to watch him a couple of times and at 4.5 million, he would be a good option to have on the bench, if not up top.
Edinson Cavani and Alexandre Lacazette are also pretty good alternatives up front who would compliment Rooney well. They may be a bit pricey at the moment but have shone in France for their clubs. Whether they would be able to adapt in the Premier League (Cavani in particular), is another subject altogether.
That’s it from me. Next time, we look at the players who will most likely make space for either, or all of the aforementioned players,because we are Manchester united; we buy who we want. See you soon.
This post comes to you courtesy of Timothy Opiko, a good friend and equally possessed United lunatic as I am. Check out his previous article(s) here.
See you on the pitch!