Although this current Premier League season isn't over yet and the next one is still three-and-a-half months away, it's never too early to start speculating on a potential Manchester United starting XI for next season.
In particular, a team that is capable of defending the Premier League crown and mounting a serious European challenge for Champions League trophy.
There are many variables and a number of things that will happen between now and August – with Robert Lewandowski believed to be the number one target for Sir Alex Ferguson this summer.
Wilfried Zaha is on his way to the club come July, whilst Dutchman Kevin Strootman and Porto wizard James Rodriguez have also been linked with United throughout season.
Here's a potential Manchester United starting XI with the rumoured targets that I believe will be entering the Old Trafford 'Welcome' door this summer.
Goalkeeper: David de Gea
Recently chosen for the PFA Premier League team of the Year, the inclusion – given to be the 11 best players of the season – is testament to De Gea's ability and character. Despite being the media's number one target for the majority of his first season at United, De Gea has brushed his critics to one side and earned the honour for being involved in the PFA team of the Year.
When you bear in mind Petr Cech, Joe Hart and Pepe Reina are all plying their trade in the Premier League the Spaniard it could be argued was a surprise winner. However, with impressive performances domestically and in Europe this season, De Gea has proved his doubters wrong and shown his true colours.
The 22-year-old has firmly cemented his place as the undisputed number one, and long may that continue.
Defence: Rafael, Phil Jones, Nemanja Vidic & Patrice Evra
Rafael has been a contender for Player of the Season at Manchester United this campaign. The Brazilian has always been a joy to watch in attack, whilst this season we have seen him vastly improve his defensive capabilities. He's even chipped in with three Premier League goals this – with his goals against QPR and Liverpool notably impressive.
Ferguson lavished praise on Phil Jones the night after Manchester United were crowned Premier League champions. Jones, 21, has proved his undoubted value to this Manchester United squad with impressive performances this season. Not even Sir Alex knows where Jones' future lies – but this writer believes it to be centre-half.
The colossal giant that is Nemanja Vidic could hopefully be back to full fitness next season. Manchester United's captain and leader has had a difficult two years blighted with injury, but his return to the side earlier this year showed his class – with United keeping six Premier League clean sheets in a row.
Although Alex Buttner is the future left-back at United, I think Patrice Evra has one more season in him at United. The United vice-captain has had a far more improved campaign opposed to last season – making 40 appearances in the process. Alex Buttner will get more opportunities next season, but Evra remains United's number one left back.
Midfield: Michael Carrick, Shinji Kagawa, Kevin Strootman & Wayne Rooney
This potential Manchester United eleven could be seen as a 4-1-2-1 diamond or even a 4-3-1-2 formation. Kevin Strootman has been linked with United for the majority of the season. The Dutch enforcer would be a fantastic acquisition for United this summer and would compliment Michael Carrick dearly.
Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa both have the talent to play the number 10 role at United, and it appears to be a toss-up between the two for Ferguson. Kagawa is more accustomed to this role, with it being his natural position. Wayne Rooney, on the other hand, has the ability to play anywhere on the pitch for United, so could drop to a more central role with Carrick and Strootman, acting as the box to box midfielder
However, Manchester United are a side known to utilise the width on the football pitch. If the formation were to change to a 4-4-2 - expect Strootman and Carrick to drop deeper, with Valencia and Zaha battling for a right midfield role whilst Ashley Young and Nani fight it out on the left-hand side.
Attack: Robin van Persie & Robert Lewandowski
Rumour has it that Ferguson is ready to launch a £25m bid for Borussia Dortmund forward Robert Lewandowski. The Poland international, who single-handedly destroyed Real Madrid with four goals in the Champions League semi-final first leg, has confirmed he will not sign a new deal at his current club. Lewandowski, 24, has 34 goals in all competitions this season for Dortmund, and is arguably the hottest forward on the market right now.
Partner him with Robin van Persie and Manchester United will have the most lethal strike-force in world football. The Dutchman, who has 29 goals in all competitions this season fired United to the title this year – imagine him being partnered with Lewandowski?
The Manchester United starting eleven for next season will remain a mystery until next August. Whatever happens this summer, Manchester United fans should be assured that the current side will only get stronger, with Sir Alex Ferguson as hungry as ever for success.
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