Hello and welcome to In The Pulpit’s Squad Analysis. Part One analysed the players who were likely to leave United in the near future. However, this time, I’m going to look at the players United need to sign to improve the squad.
Let’s just take a moment to explain what I mean. I’m not saying that United need to sign all of these players at once. That would be crazy. I’m just highlighting the types of players that this United squad need to turn them from a top four team into a title challenging team. These players should be acquired over the next two or three windows, or if by some minor miracle United already own one, be developed over that time.
I’m also not going to write a list of all the best players in the world. I’m not one of those scouts on Football Manager who spends months in Spain to come back and tell me that Messi is half decent. We can work that out. No, instead, I’m going to tell you the types of players I think United need. I’ll include a list of players who fit the bill and I’ll try to limit it to ones that United have a feasible chance of getting. But in all honesty, I would rather that the recruitment team do their job. I’ll do mine and write a list.
A full back
As mentioned in part one, two of the current backups at full back are likely to leave in the near future (Blind and Darmian, read part one). That would leave Young and Shaw as the two left backs and Valencia at right back. United still have Timothy Fosu-Mensah to return from Crystal Palace, who seems to be an able deputy to Valencia (although it’s unclear if Mourinho thinks this).
Wait a second. That’s four full backs, two that are young and two that are old (although one of them is also Young, hardy har). Why am I writing that United need another one? Good question, me. Thanks. Basically, if United don’t think it’s a good idea to keep Young and Valencia, slowly phase them out as they age and replace them with two younger deputies they already own, they need a full back. I think that would be good planning, but I’m an idealist.
Much more likely, is that Mourinho looks at his four full backs and think that one is 32, one is a 32 year old converted winger, one is 19 and one is Luke Shaw. I don’t think Jose will think he can win a title next season with those full backs. So what does he need? A complete wing back either on the right or the left. I reckon he’ll go for the left because of his irrational hatred of Luke Shaw.
Possible options: Alex Sandro, Danny Rose, Faouzi Ghoulam (assuming his leg heals).
A true replacement for Michael Carrick
I could have written this entry in 2012. Michael Carrick is a brilliant central midfielder and has been a terrific servant for United. Sadly, he’s now 36 and bizarrely seems to have recently developed a heart problem. He’s only featured once this season, the victory against Burton when he looked like the best player on the field. It’s time United finally found a replacement.
In the last fixture against Everton, United reverted to a 4-3-3 formation, with Matic in the holding role and Pogba and Herrera ahead of him. This seemed to suit them well, but as adept as Matic is in that role, he’s not really a playmaker. He wins the ball with ease then lays it off to a true playmaker like Pogba. If United had a metronomic passer, who could receive the ball under pressure, keep the ball and even start attacks, they would be a much more terrifying prospect. Considering that currently, United are an injury away from deploying Fellaini, this is the most urgent requirement on the list.
Possible options: Julian Weigl, Jorginho, Steven N’Zonzi.
A proper winger
Mourinho himself tried to solve this in the summer with his pursuit of Ivan Perisic. The general opinion seems to be that Jose was keen on having a winger who could cross for Lukaku to finish. While I agree that this is a valid reason to sign a winger, I feel this ignores a major issue with the current squad.
At the moment, United haven’t got a true winger, a player who can actually play out on the touchline. All of United’s current wide men really want to come inside or worse, aren’t even wide players at all. This is especially pressing on the right hand side, where we currently field either Juan Mata or Henrik Mkhitaryan. This needs to be resolved if possible, just so United’s attack isn’t so one dimensional. Currently, teams can sit back in an organised block, safe in the knowledge that the wingers will come inside. A true winger would pull the opposing full back wide, providing space for the number 10 or striker (more on that later). Plus, they’re fun to watch!
Possible options: Gareth Bale (ha! I did just name a really good player everyone has heard of), Leon Bailey, Malcom
A top class number 10
I almost didn’t bother including this section, since it now turns out that United do have a top class number 10 in Jesse Lingard. However, this might just be a purple patch for Lingard, rather than an indication of how good he will be for the rest of his career.
United’s major problem in recent fixtures has been their creativity and link up play in forward areas. Having a player who can link midfield and attack, find the runs of the wide players or the strikers and maybe even score themselves would be invaluable. If that player has already proven they can do that in a top division and is available for United to purchase, they should jump at the chance. As mentioned in part one, Mata isn’t going to get better and currently, Mkhitaryan doesn’t look up to it. A top class number 10 looks like the final piece of the attacking puzzle.
Possible options: Mesut Ozil, Christian Eriksen, James Rodriguez
A striker who is not just a finisher
Romelu Lukaku is a brilliant striker who will get a stack of goals if he is the spearhead of a half decent attacking unit. If United can work out how to be better than half decent, he’ll easily get 25+ goals.
However, United do need an alternative. They are currently experiencing what it’s like to not have Lukaku (and Zlatan, but we all know he won’t play a lot and won’t be here come next season). Martial and Rashford are decent replacements, but Mourinho doesn’t seem to fancy either of them up front on their own. Rather than sign a like for like player, it would seem much more beneficial for United to have a different type of striker. One who can score, but also drop off and roam to help create chances for others. It also means that if Lukaku is in bad form or if he’s struggling in a game, we can change the way we play with ease.
The only issue with this player, is that they’ll be signed with the knowledge that they’re second choice to Lukaku. United would have to buy an older player who’s happy to not feature every week, a youngster willing to learn or a player who will increase their game time by playing in other positions. Sadly, no Paulo Dybala’s here.
Possible options: (Assuming this player is very much second choice) Alexis Sanchez, Kasper Dolberg, Nabil Fekir
Every week in this column, I’ll end with a ‘Jose Out’ rating. This is a rating out of 10 to show how much I would like him to be sacked. I’m not a fan of the man and haven’t been from the beginning, but I feel I should represent my feelings as they move from week to week. It’ll be a gauge to show how much you should hate me and how much of a traitor I am for ‘not supporting the team.’
Jose Out rating: 8/10. It will drop if he continues with the attacking freedom of the second half against Everton. It will drop further if he uses January well. Will he though?