Time to look to the summer

Opinion

United’s season is almost run. A City victory in the derby will see them crowned champions, leaving Jose Mourinho’s men to try to secure second place, which they now should following Spurs’ victory at Stamford Bridge. A big FA cup semi-final awaits to keep any hope of silverware alive and for a lot of the squad will have one eye on their personal world cup hopes. But for Mourinho and Ed Woodward, their thoughts will start to turn to the summer where a huge transfer window awaits the club. I take a look at where I think United should be looking to strengthen, potential incomings and whose time is up at Old Trafford.

Defence

I’m certain that the backline is where Mourinho will start his transfer business. Purely looking at the number of goals conceded, there is no obvious reason as to why this will be the case. Pep Guardiola spent a lot of money in this area last summer, his reasons were blatantly obvious as his defence time and time again let him down. For Mourinho, he will be looking for different reasons. The demand for more attacking football always starts with a solid base to attack from. City and Liverpool have been the best attacking teams by some distance but the defensive comparisons is why one is romping away with the league and the other is still not guaranteed a top 4 finish. City now have a very decent keeper, strong full-backs and a solid central partnership along with strength in depth. All of which gives more licence and confidence to the attacking players. United need something similar as at the rare times they have opened up a little more, they have looked very vulnerable at the back. I expect a fair bit of movement in and out of the club defensively.

Defensive transfers out

Matteo Darmian – a couple of strong defensive displays and his versatility towards the end of last season probably saved him leaving the club last summer. But when he has featured this season, he has been nothing short of abysmal. Not great defensively and even worse when venturing forward. United need more dynamism and he needs to go back to Italy.

Daley Blind – been a great servant for the club and be sad to see him leave but never gets a look in anymore. Too many ahead in the left back spot and Mourinho doesn’t rate him centrally or in midfield. Could stay in England but can see him going back to Holland.

Marcos Rojo – had some bad injuries and none worse than the knee ligament damage at the end of last season. Looked like he could come good at times last season but nowhere near good enough when he has played this season. Should be let go.

Phil Jones/Chris Smalling – I think one will go but I’m not sure which one. If I had to choose I would say, Phil Jones, as I think Smalling is slightly more consistent in performance and injuries. Since Smalling’s terrible game against Spurs, he has actually put in some strong performances alongside Eric Bailly. I think making room for 1 or 2 incomings and the returning Axel Tuanzebe is a better option.

Luke Shaw – I am very much in the ‘Luke Shaw first choice left back club’ and I think he should have been given the run of games to show he can get back to his best. Unfortunately, it seems Mourinho just doesn’t trust him. I think it is best for Shaw’s career that he gets out of the club and proves what he is all about under a manager that believes in him. Looks odds on that he will be sold.

Defensive transfers in

Toby Alderweireld – Arguably the best and most consistent defender in the Premier League for the past 3 seasons. Not played for Spurs for weeks despite being fit which may signal he is on his way out of the club. More than anything Mourinho needs to find a partner for Bailly and someone with Premier League experience is ideal. Club should be all in for his services over anyone else. One centre-half should be enough with Victor Lindelof, Smalling and Tuanzebe as back up.

Danny Rose – Luke Shaw should and in my eyes is a better option at left back, but does not have a future. Danny Rose has been rumoured as a future red and could still see a swap deal being done between the 2. Another defender who is proven in the Premier League and brings more value with a great attacking threat down the left and could benefit from how Alexis Sanchez plays when he drifts inside, leaving plenty of space for the left full-back. If they can swap Shaw and pay very little then it could be good business.

Kieran Tierney/Ryan Sessegnon – with Shaw looking likely to leave that only leaves Ashley Young as cover, which will be fine for another season but it is imperative planning is made for the future. Tierney and Sessegnon are 2 of the best young left backs around and both having a great season for Celtic and Fulham. Either could become United left-back for the next 10 years plus but the worry is that we know what Mourinho’s patience is like with youngsters.

Central Midfield

Where do you start with the United central midfield area? Nemanja Matic has been a mainstay and been a brilliant signing and should be United’s number one defensive midfielder for the next few seasons. Ander Herrera can fill in that role if Matic is injured, in need of a rest or Mourinho wants 2 holding. I think he has completely lost any attacking intent he once had and should no longer be played further forward. The important part of the midfield is the balance and I think there is a serious battle of egos between manager and a certain French player that need fixing. Mourinho either sticks with his preferred 4-2-3-1 or he changes to a 4-3-3 and which one he chooses will determine the future of some players.

Midfield transfers out

Marouane Fellaini – rumours that contract talks have stalled which is great news as they should never have started in the first place. Mourinho needs to get this tall player favouritism out of his system (in more ways than one) if he wants to improve the attacking displays. Fellaini has never been a United player and his only positive was being brought on late to change it up and chuck the ball up to him. With Romelu Lukaku now leading the line, there is no longer a need for Fellaini. Should be let go without any further effort from the club to keep him.

Paul Pogba – this is only if Mourinho sticks with 2 holding players because the Frenchman is never going to be suited to that role and there are better players playing as a number 10. Equal amount of rumours of unrest between player and manager as there are that Mourinho will use this summer to bring in the right players to get the best out of Pogba. Time will tell whether Pogba has a future at the club, I think £90 million is too much to turn your back on so soon though.

Midfield transfers in

Jorginho – again, if Mourinho sticks with 2 deeper players, this could be the best piece of business. Brilliant passer of the football and something United have missed this season. More tactically restrained than Pogba and could really knit the side together. Capable of getting into the opposition box too, adding extra attacking threat and more than capable of playing as 2 in front of Matic if the manager chooses. Think many will be after him so will have to move fast.

Jack Wilshere – could well be available on a free and could be the signing of the summer. United need to bolster the numbers in the central positions and Wilshere could be perfect. Premier League experience, can play deeper or in a number 10 role, superb dribbling ability and can pick a pass. Should be a no-brainer on a free as his injury record then becomes less of an issue.

Front 3

Mourinho has been quite vocal in saying he is not looking for any attacking players. But there is one position that has troubled him and the side all season and that is on the right-hand side. Juan Mata is a terrific player for a number of reasons and at the moment is the best option in that position. But with him and Alexis Sanchez (who will be first choice on the left) preferring to drift inside from wide, United play quite narrow and rely on the full-backs to provide the width. United have always been known for wingers and how they make the pitch as big as possible. City do it very well with Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling and Mourinho should follow suit. United are currently very unbalanced in attack and think Mourinho will look to sort this problem.

Attacking transfers out

Anthony Martial – this is most definitely not what I would do, but what I think may happen. Unfortunately United have 3 players for 1 position and there is no way Sanchez will be the one out of the door so soon after moving. That leaves a shootout between Marcus Rashford and Martial, with the young Englishman probably ahead in Mourinho’s plans. Of course, both probably would choose to play as a main striker but there is even less chance of them getting ahead of Lukaku and neither fits the stereotypical Mourinho striker. I firmly believe Martial is the club’s best left winger as he can do anything but I have a feeling United may cash in whilst his stock is still high and use the cash to strengthen in other areas. I really hope I am wrong though.

Attacking transfers In

Gareth Bale – Zzzzzz!! Another summer and another Bale to United saga. Probably closely following or being followed by Ronaldo to United rumour. But I actually think this could be the summer it happens. Another frustrating season of injuries has hindered the Welshman and seemingly is not in Zinedine Zidane’s first choice 11 for the crunch games. A little bit like Martial, Real may look to selling him whilst they can still demand most of his transfer fee back, as another season of injuries may mean losing him for far cheaper. A fit Gareth Bale is still one of the best players in world football and immediately fits the bill for what United are currently lacking. Martial, Rashford and Sanchez have all been tried on the right and all look like half the player they do on the opposite flank. Bale loves that position where he can skip past players on the outside, using his pace or cut inside onto his left foot where he is one of the best. On top of that, his goal return is far greater than any other wide player United currently own. Like Jorginho, he won’t be short of takers which will automatically boost his value, on top of the inflated price of any player moving from Madrid to Manchester. His recent injury record is not great but I think this is more down to Madrid rushing him back rather than Bale being fragile.

Balance is key

I think Mourinho will be looking for another 4 or 5 players to come in. There are a number of players to return on loan who could become really useful squad players but the jury is out as to whether they feature on Mourinho’s plans. Tuanzebe should be regarded as a future club centre-half and could really benefit from training alongside Bailly and Alderweireld, if he joins. Timothy Fosu-Mensah will return from his season-long loan at Crystal Palace and should be used at least as back up to Antonio Valencia. Andreas Pereira will also return and is an ideal squad player in the attacking areas. Capable of playing wide or centrally, it is about time United started using him and see if he can develop just like Jesse Lingard has. Adding these 3 to the list of transfers in and the squad will be strong in ability, numbers and versatility.

It is a huge summer that United need to get right if they are to close the gap to City. They need more technical players in order to control games, have to strengthen in the centre of defence and need to find the solution to the right-hand side. More importantly, they need players that will give everything for the club and fit a system that Mourinho wants to play rather than buying a big name for the sake of it. Any thoughts of a Paulo Dybala, Neymar etc should be quashed immediately, they are not what is needed. However, what I think will happen, what I think should happen and what actually will happen are 3 very different things and I wouldn’t be surprised of anything. But what is certain, it will be another frustrating summer window to follow as a United supporter with plenty of rumours linked to the club.

About the Author

Andy Warrant
Huge football fan with his own views on everything related to it.