Will Manchester United win the Premier League title in Louis van Gaal’s third and final season at Old Trafford? Well, that could all depend on who the veteran Dutch coach signs next summer.
Van Gaal, despite spending a fortune in each of the previous three transfer windows, will be keen to strengthen his squad prior to the 2016-17 campaign - there are areas that need improving in order to win both the Premier League and Champions League titles.
And United’s owners, the controversial Glazer family, will make the funds available for Van Gaal to spend on pretty much anybody he wants - within reason, of course. They have to be available for transfer and, crucially, they have to want to join the Red Devils.
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We’ve compiled a list of five players who Van Gaal should assign his scouts to closely monitor as soon as possible.
Don’t forget to leave your comments in the box below after scrolling through the list. We want to know which other players you think Van Gaal should be looking to sign in 2016.
Aymeric Laporte | Athletic Bilbao
Evidence of how much strength in depth France currently possess in central defence is the fact Aymeric Laporte has still not been capped at senior international level.
The Athletic Bilbao centre-back, who doesn’t turn 22 until May, has been a key player for both his club and the France Under-21 side for a couple of years now.
Perhaps if he was playing for a bigger club - like Kurt Zouma and Raphael Varane are - he’d already have made his international debut long before now.
United have a long-standing interest in the defender, whose release clause was raised to €50 million in the summer, but whether they make their move could depend on how Phil Jones performs alongside Chris Smalling between now and the end of the season.
John Stones | Everton
If, however, Manchester United want a central defender with previous experience of playing in the Premier League then John Stones is their man.
The 21-year-old, who has been capped at senior international level for England, possesses a maturity that defies his tender age.
Calm and composed, his playing style has led to favourable comparisons with United hero Rio Ferdinand. High praise indeed.
As Chelsea discovered in the summer, though, prising him away from Goodison Park will be no mean feat for Manchester United. A bid in excess of £40 million would be required to secure his services.
Antoine Griezmann | Atletico Madrid
A hugely talented attacking winger, Antoine Griezmann isn’t far off cementing his status as a genuinely world-class footballer. To get there, all the 24-year-old needs to do now is consistently perform well in the biggest matches.
Some have a few concerns that the France international is something of a flat-track bully, but Griezmann could silence those critics - who are, admittedly, in the minority - by moving to Manchester United and shining against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City.
In his previous two full seasons - with Real Sociedad and Atleti - Griezmann has scored a remarkable 45 goals. At the start of this season, meanwhile, he has six in nine appearances.
Blessed with searing pace, a lethal left foot, surprisingly good aerial ability and football intelligence, Griezmann would be worth every penny that Atletico Madrid demand for his signature.
It would come as no surprise if he paid back his transfer fee within his first season, by helping the Red Devils win a major trophy.
Ross Barkley | Everton
When Manchester United previously raided Everton for their star youngster, eleven years ago now, it turned out to be a pretty smart move.
Ross Barkley might not become Manchester United’s record goalscorer, like Wayne Rooney surely will, but the gifted midfielder would be a shrewd signing nevertheless.
The 21-year-old possesses extraordinary natural ability, exceptional core strength and impressive pace for his build.
He can be a little inconsistent, but most players his age are.
Barkley has been superb at the start of this season - for both club and country - and might be looking to make that step up after next summer’s European Championships in France.
Manchester United would be the perfect club for him to both develop and fulfil his immense potential.
Gareth Bale | Real Madrid
For one reason or another, things just don’t seem to be working out for Gareth Bale and Real Madrid.
It was all going swimmingly up until the start of his second season - the Welshman could not have enjoyed a better debut campaign with Los Blancos following his £86 million move from Tottenham in the summer of 2013 - but everything feels a little strained and uncomfortable right now.
The expectant Real Madrid faithful have never really warmed to Bale - they gave him an unfair amount of stick last season - and it’s fair to assume he will never be the main man at the Bernabeu as long as Cristiano Ronaldo is still there.
There’s a chance that Ronaldo could leave Real Madrid next summer - the Portuguese star is more likely to end up at Paris Saint-Germain than Old Trafford - but if that doesn’t happen then Manchester United should move heaven and earth to bring the world-class forward back to England.
Manchester United fans: who should Louis van Gaal sign in 2016? Have your say by leaving a comment in the box below!
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