Manchester United are on course to win their 20th league title in English football. But the general performance of the team in recent weeks has highlighted some areas in need of improvement this summer.
Last summer, Sir Alex Ferguson made a powerful statement by pipping Manchester City and Juventus by signing Robin van Persie from Arsenal for £24 million. The Dutch ace has gone on to score a hatful of goals, propelling his side ahead of their rivals towards another Premier League crown. Ferguson and Roberto Mancini both agree that Van Persie is the difference between the two Manchester outfits.
Although United are well stocked in the striking department with Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Robin van Persie, Javier Hernandez and Japanese new boy Shinji Kagawa, there has been little attempts to strengthen the centre of midfield - an area which has been under the spotlight for the past three to four years.
Michael Carrick is having an exceptional season of late, but his partners in the middle of the park are not as consistent. Anderson has never hit top form since his big-money arrival in 2007, Darren Fletcher, such a key cog in the engine room before his illness, has not played for a year and local boy Tom Cleverley is a good player but one who is still learning the trade.
Veterans Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes no longer have the legs or the lungs to play 90 minutes week-in week-out, although their experience does add a bonus. This weakness has been exposed against Chelsea and Manchester City in recent weeks, while memories of Barcelona from 2009 and 2011 still sends shivers through the Red Devils' fans spines.
Left-back is another problematic area for United. Frenchman Patrice Evra has upped his game this season, scoring six goals along the way, but remains defensively suspect against trickier and faster wingers. Spurs wide-man Aaron Lennon, tricky Argentine Angel di Maria and even West Ham's Matt Jarvis have caused the 31-year-old left-back serious problems this season.
Alexander Buttner was signed last summer from Vitesse Arnhem, whose energy and attack minded play is a joy to watch but he doesn't seem to be ready to play every week for such a huge club.
Manchester United do have cash in the coffers, though. The $370 million deal with American car giants Chevrolet and the eight-year deal with present sponsors AON, plus the funds from this year's Premier league victory, should generate sufficient funds to buy a couple of key players.
Potential transfer targets:
1) Kevin Strootman | PSV Eindhoven
Dubbed 'the Dutch Roy Keane', the Netherlands international possesses a bite in the tackle, strength and the vision to play key passes from the centre of midfield. The PSV midfielder has already captained the Dutch national team during the absence of Wesley Sneijder, showing his level of maturity. Strootman has showcased his ability to play as a deep-lying playmaker, a midfield enforcer and occasionally further up the field. The presence of fellow Dutchmen Van Persie and Buttner would ensure he quickly settles into the United team and his talent makes him an automatic starter.
2) Marouane Fellaini | Everton
The big haired Belgian would be the ideal signing for United's midfield. He might come with a hefty price tag but he's a proven performer in the English league. Standing at 6ft 4in with a massive build, he would strike fear in the hearts of oppositions and easily dismantle the opposing midfielders with his powerful style of play. Fellaini also has the ability to make fine passes, shoot from distance and of course, his areal threat while attacking and defending set pieces is second to none. His aggressive play will be the perfect foil for the calmer approach of Michael Carrick and at 25, he cowld play at the top level for a good seven to eight years more.
3) Leighton Baines | Everton
An attacking full-back who is just as good in defence. An era where most full-backs ignore defensive duties, the England left-back is a no nonsense defender. A great crosser of the ball and a deadly set-piece specialist, his attacking play is as effective as it is joyful to watch. Age might not be on his side, but United would benefit from Baines' peak years.
4) Victor Wanyama | Celtic
The Kenyan monster of a midfielder defied his young age with imperious showings against the mighty Barcelona in the Champions League this season. His height, physicality, tackling and running make him a star for the near future. His ability to slot in at centre-back gives him an added advantage. His price tag isn't as heavy and he surely would jump at the chance to play for such a big club under such a big manager.
5) Sandro | Tottenham
Having come to prominence during Brazil's Olympic 2012 showing, an unfortunate knee injury ended his season. Playing as part of the double pivot of Spurs' midfield along with Scott Parker or Moussa Dembele, the Brazilian enforcer is a quality player. Tackling, dribbling, passing and long-distance shooting makes him the perfect defensive midfielder. Spurs might not be willing to let him go, but in the case they miss out on the Champions League next season, a bid of around £20 million could prise him away.
6) Arturo Vidal | Juventus
What can the Chilean midfielder not do? He has an engine, covers every blade of grass, plays box-to-box, scores goals, tackles, tirelessly presses opposition midfielders and has the technique to play for the top team in one of the toughest leagues, the Serie A. There is no doubt he is the best defensive midfielder in the world at the moment, which makes him unsellable to the Juve board. United might need to launch a top offer for him, but if they do get him, it would be such a big, big boost to the team.
7) James Rodriguez | FC Porto
The Columbian winger has risen up the football ladders and is now a star in his own right. Being left-footed, he offers something different to United's current wide players. His trickery, ability to play on both wings and behind the striker and his fair share of goalscoring makes him an envious transfer target. A player-plus-cash exchange and Sir Alex might just be able to get his man.
8) Joao Moutinho | FC Porto
A star performer for both club and country for many years, the Portuguese international is experienced on the big stage. A box-to-box midfielder with immense passing ability and an eye for goal, his fantastic displays for Porto in the Champions League, their Europa League winning season and for Portugal in EURO 2012 made him a transfer target for Ferguson last summer.
9) Angel di Maria | Real Madrid
With rumours of his fall-out with Jose Mourinho, United have a better chance of landing Di Maria than in previous seasons - and what a signing he would be. He is much improved on the big stage having played at one of the world's top clubs and his mazy dribbles, final pass and ability to take on and beat a defender makes him a better option than what United have at their disposal at present.
10) Cristiano Ronaldo | Real Madrid
The biggest superstar on the planet. Arguably the most complete footballer ever to play the game, the former United man definitely misses his old stomping ground and would love to play under Sir Alex Ferguson once again. He might be approaching 30, but his dedication and fitness guarantees him at least another five years at top level. His enormous price tag would inevitably be a stumbling block to any deal, but rumours persist suggesting an Old Trafford return could be on the cards for Ronaldo. If United do pull it off, it would be one of the biggest transfers in the club's long history.
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