With the January transfer window fast approaching, Manchester United will be scouring Europe’s top leagues, attempting to whittle down their list of targets, and size up some favourable deals.
The winter market is notoriously complex to do business in, with clubs reluctant to lose their star names. Add to that the difficulty of convincing players to uproot their lives and move cities, or even countries, and adapt to a new playing style.
It’s not an easy one to get right, as Manchester United can attest to, but it’s certainly not impossible for deals to be struck.
So, with that in mind, here are seven players across three positions that the Red Devils desperately need in order to strengthen their chances of success in the second half of the 2020-21 season:
It’s been an age-old problem for Manchester United that seemingly has no end. It was beyond obvious that the club were aiming to sign Jadon Sancho last summer to fill the void, but a deal failed to materialise and left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer empty handed once again.
In the dying embers of the summer window, United did manage to sign Amad Diallo, Atalanta’s hotshot winger, but the 18-year-old will need time to adapt and find his feet before stepping up to the senior side.
In the meantime, Sancho remains top of United’s list of targets, but perhaps they’d be better served diverting their attention elsewhere in search of a suitable player.
Juventus’ Dejan Kulusevski and Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey are continually being monitored by the club, with the former club eyeing Paul Pogba as a transfer target of their own.
It’s clear that Solskjaer needs an out-and-out right winger who can have an instant impact, especially if he is expected to deliver a top four finish and a trophy this term — which makes securing one of the aforementioned names all the more vital.
With the rumours circulating on an hourly basis about Pogba’s potential move away from Old Trafford next summer, Manchester United need to be well prepared for what comes after.
While the France international has rarely set the world alight with his performances in a red shirt, he has at least had moments where he’s looked like the world-beater the club thought they were signing back in 2016.
Leicester City’s Wilfred Ndidi, West Ham’s Declan Rice, and Borussia Monchengladbach’s Denis Zakaria are three midfielders that would all fit the bill nicely, with the former and latter being the fans’ preferred options.
Zakaria, born in Switzerland, would be the cheapest of the three, as Leicester and West Ham have already made it clear their star men won’t be leaving for less than a king’s ransom.
The British market is incredibly overinflated, and while Ndidi and Rice are of the quality and level Manchester United need, the club would be better placed going for someone like Zakaria and investing the remaining money into other areas of the pitch.
Regardless of the specific player, it’s of utmost importance United recruit an athletic, dynamic defensive midfielder who can operate on their own in front of the defence — in a similar style to the role N’Golo Kanté has performed throughout his career.
With that added protection, it will allow Bruno Fernandes and Fred greater creative license, ensuring they can consistently perform to a high standard.
Manchester United’s centre backs have been pulled apart at different stages throughout this season, highlighting another key area the club must improve in.
While Harry Maguire has shown, at times, that he is well worth sticking by — especially when he has the ball at his feet — it’s abundantly clear he needs a partner alongside him that has the required speed to play a high line.
In United’s recent Champions League match — which ultimately ended in their elimination from the competition — Dayot Upamecano was closely watched, and looked a class above in his reading of the game and acceleration across the ground.
The Red Devils are more than likely going to have to spend big if they are to get the central defender they so desperately need, but a player of Upamecano’s ilk would undoubtedly resolve their centre-back issues for the foreseeable future.
It’s been reported that the Frenchman has a release clause that comes into effect next summer of around £40 million, which was the main reason he extended his current deal with Leipzig until 2023.
Solskjaer is going to have a fight on his hands with Europe’s top dogs to secure Upamecano’s services, but if United are serious in their ambitions, the club simply must push the boat out and get him through the doors at Old Trafford.