Last season was a very difficult one for Man United, and yet the Red Devils still managed to achieve a three-trophy haul and qualify for the Champions League. Like last season, Jose Mourinho’s squad is in some serious need of reinforcements if the club is to challenge on all fronts next season.
The plans of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and Mourinho have already been stifled, reportedly, by Antoine Griezmann announcing that he’ll stay with Atletico Madrid. Without delving into who United may need to pursue if Zlatan Ibrahimovic or David de Gea leave, let’s look into what the team needs right now.
The centre of midfield for Manchester United severely lacked an attacking spark throughout the campaign. Michael Carrick played a holding role, Ander Herrera would hunt down the opposition’s star midfielders and protect the defence, Paul Pogba played an all-round role but often became flustered when carrying the ball in attack, and Marouane Fellaini posed a physical threat but little more.
Manchester United need someone to carry the ball up the park, take on defenders, distribute the ball to the wings or over the top, and pose a consistent scoring threat. James Rodriguez of Real Madrid has been linked to the Red Devils and would be the perfect, if not very expensive, man to fill this need. Another way to go, if they could pry him away, is Marek Hamsik of SSC Napoli. The Slovakian is one of the best attacking midfielders in the world and would be an excellent addition to the team.
The defence presented one of Mourinho’s biggest challenges this season, mainly due to injuries. Despite this, the defensive corps available was enough to help David de Gea finish with some of the best stats in the league.
Manchester United are second-favourites at 10/3 to win the league next season in the football odds, but it is clear that this ensemble of defenders won’t be enough, and a strong defensive presence will be needed throughout the season. Someone who can defend well and stay fit for the vast majority of, if not the whole, season.
Virgil van Dijk is hot property this summer, and United could do with a defender of his skill. Thinking a bit more outside of the box, Danish giant Jannik Vestergaard, who stands at 6’6’’ for Borussia Monchengladbach, could provide a strong, clinical presence at the back and he has a favourable injury history.
Last season, Manchester United usually employed the cut inside manoeuvre for their wingers, but with a big target man like Zlatan Ibrahimovic – or any solo striker in Mourinho’s formation – crossing the ball in from the byline can only increase the attacking threat.
Right now, United have two players perfect for such a role, Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, but one now plays at right-back and the other at left-back or as a utility winger, respectively. Having someone along the lines of Thomas Lemar, Felipe Anderson, or even ex-United player Wilfried Zaha up the wing would greatly help this deficiency that the team currently possesses.
With three players possessing these qualities, Manchester United would be able to fill in some of the team’s biggest needs. Who knows, if they sign the right players, the Red Devils may even become favourites to win the Premier League next season.