Pre-season hasn’t even started yet but the image of the Premier League certainly has with four of the top five clubs following last season’s standings have appointed new managers and the cash has already begun to be splashed.
But for Manchester United, under Sir Alex Ferguson’s hand-picked successor David Moyes, the biggest challenge will be to recapture this season’s glory in beating off the challengers to keep the title placed firmly within Old Trafford.
And to do so, one must assume Moyes must build on this squad of elite players Ferguson has so kindly left him. But where and most importantly how can he improve it I hear you ask?
Although it may appear there is serious strength in depth in this department there is still room for improvement. Just take a look at the amount of goals conceded in last season’s league campaign (43); to put it in to perspective, Stoke City conceded just two more (45) than the champions yet they finished down in 13th place.
It goes without saying that despite his quality and true leadership Nemanja Vidic has become very injury prone over the past couple of seasons appearing in just 25 league games in both the 2011/12 & 2012/13 campaigns combined.
And as for the other half of the central partnership - Rio Ferdinand, although he may just have had one of his finest season’s in a red shirt he turns 35 later this year, which begs the question: how long can he do it for?
Then there is of course the utility man himself, the man with no position if you like - Phil Jones; shown his class late in last season’s campaign with fine displays against Real Madrid and Everton but if he doesn’t tie himself down to one position he may only ever be a utility player and not the future United captain Ferguson once predicted him to be.
As for full-backs, despite having a handful to pick from, there is only really Patrice Evra who has firmly held down a starting spot on the team sheet over the last 12 months. However, the French international has been heavily linked with a move back to former club AS Monaco.
Also, Alexander Buttner has failed to impress in his first term at Manchester United and will face even more competition for his place with Fabio returning from his loan spell at recently relegated Queens Park Rangers.
Who could come in? According to the Daily Mail, Leighton Baines is set to become David Moyes’ first signing after he formerly worked with the England international at Everton; Baines is also a player that has been heavily linked with the Red Devils for a number of seasons now. In the central role, Ezeguiel Garay has allegedly already agreed to join United in a fee believed to be around £17 million and the 26-year-old Argentine has already proved himself in Europe during stints at Real Madrid and most recently with the Europa League runners-up Benfica.
Across the middle of the park is where the champions will need to invest in the most, especially with Paul Scholes retiring and Wayne Rooney declaring he wants to become an out and out centre forward.
Nani and Anderson who both completed their moves to the Manchester club back in 2007 are also two individuals persistently linked with moves away from the club; a host of European teams including money giants PSG are amongst the clubs eyeing the Portuguese winger Nani.
Although there hasn’t been any direct clubs linked with Anderson, the 25-year-old Brazilian has never really won over the Old Trafford faithful over the past six seasons and may be looking to move elsewhere for first team football.
Although all the rumours suggest Manchester United are looking to bring in a central midfielder, I strongly believe much consideration is needed to be paid towards the wingers.
For example, Ashley Young only made 17 league appearances last season and hardly looked a world beater against stronger opposition whilst Antonio Valencia looked the shell of the player he had been the season before last- his wing play has become predictable and Premier League full-backs seem to have found it much easier to mark him out the game in comparison to the 2011/12 season which saw him feature in the Barclays team of the year.
Who can come in? Although the former Arsenal captain is being strongly linked with a move to Old Trafford, a clause in his contract that involves the gunners suggests the move may fail to capitalise.
According to The Sun, Thiago looks the more likely of the two Barcelona playmakers to complete the switch to the North West of England in a fee believed to be around the £20million mark. Despite there being no talk of wingers coming in to the Reds’ set up, I truly believe Gareth Bale could be the man that Manchester United should focus all their attention on - he’s young, quick and most of all he’s already proven in the Premier League which is vital.
However, reports suggest Real Madrid will give it their all this summer to complete the signing of the Welsh wizard.
This is one area where United don’t really need to improve on greatly. Under Ferguson, he always stated that every one of his squads needed four decent strikers and this still applies with the services of Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Chicharito. However, there’s no shying away from the fact that Wayne Rooney’s future still hangs in the balance following a second transfer request in four years was handed in from himself in May.
Who could come in? Assuming Rooney does part ways with the club, a more than suitable replacement is believed to be none other than Borussia Dortmund’s very own hit man Robert Lewandowski.
According to ESPN, Lewandowski’s current club Dortmund have revealed a statement saying they will not allow the player to follow in the footsteps of Mario Gotze by joining rivals Bayern Munich which has not only alerted United but league rivals Chelsea and Manchester City.
The Polish international, who scored a total of 36 goals last term will be a free agent this time next year but the fee is believed to be around 35 million euros if any club is to land his signature this summer.
Safe to say there’s a lot to look forward to for the United fans this summer, especially under new manager Moyes who will be looking to capitalise in the transfer market with a bit of cash under his belt for the first time in his managerial career.
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