There may be only three days of the transfer window remaining but Manchester United’s squad still requires drastic changes if they’re to effectively compete for a top four spot in the Premier League this season.
The deadwood is still stockpiled as high as the ceiling at Old Trafford and despite already spending £131million on new recruits this summer, several prime transfer targets are yet to arrive.
So with action required on both the inward and outward fronts, being the lovely bunch we are at Football Fancast, here’s a list of THREE ins and THREE outs Manchester United must make to return the club to it’s former glories.
Once dubbed the next Paul Scholes, the 25 year-old has spent the last two years closer resembling Nicky Butt, and even that’s a pretty kind appraisal compared to what you can find online – the petition to ban him from England duty at the World Cup for example.
Roy Hodgson condemned the petition but eventually agreed with public opinion, excluding Cleverley from his Three Lions squad for the tournament in Brazil. Indeed, the midfielder’s contribution over the last two seasons – especially in terms of output – has been minimal, as shown in the stats below:
The Carrington product’s limited quality has come to epitomise Manchester United’s intrinsic flaws in the middle of the park and their failed recruitment in that department over the last five years.
Most United fans want him gone, and with just a year left on his current contract, that’s now looking increasingly likely. Aston Villa and – rather surprisingly – Valencia, (yes, Valencia) have emerged as potential suitors:
BREAKING: Valencia are the latest club to make a £8m bid for Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley. (Source: SkySports)
— Transfer News Live (@DeadlineDayLive) August 29, 2014
Tom Cleverley meets with Roy Keane to discuss a potential £7m move to Aston Villa http://t.co/32KoF4aYAL
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) August 29, 2014
Of course, if we’re talking about direct replacements for Tom Cleverley then top of the list is unquestionably Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal, who Manchester United appear to be closing in on amid one of the summer’s most arduous transfer sagas:
— Metro Sport (@Metro_Sport) August 29, 2014
The Chile international has emerged as arguably the world’s most compete midfielder since joining the Old Lady in 2011 through his ability to contribute in both attack and defence. Here’s a look at how he fared last season:
That regular supply of goals from the middle of the park, as well as Vidal’s dogged athleticism, will be vital for United – Tom Cleverley, Marouane Fellaini, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher netted just twice collectively last season but no midfielder has bettered Vidal’s 28 goals in Serie A over the last three seasons.
Here’s a look at the 26 year-old in action:
Furthermore and perhaps most importantly, the South American has shot to stardom under Juve’s 3-5-2 formation, as shown below:
He also performed well in a similar system, albeit in a more advanced role, for Chile at Brazil 2014. That should make him the ideal man to help implement Louis van Gaal’s new-found 3-4-1-2 philosophy.
No doubt, the South Korea international is a talented player – he won two league titles and netted 21 times in 49 Bundesliga appearances during two years at former club Borussia Dortmund. Here’s the highlights from his Westfalen spell:
But since moving to Old Trafford in summer 2012, the 25 year-old has continually struggled to find a place for himself in the United squad. He’ll never beat Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney to the No.10 spot, has tried and failed to produce out wide and Louis van Gaal saw fit to pick the slender-built Adnan Januzaj over him in central midfield against Sunderland.
At this point he’s become more valuable to United as a transfer commodity than as a player – Kagawa’s wage package and market worth makes him unjustifiable to simply keep on as a bit-part player.
Fortuitously, speculation this morning suggests a return to Dortmund is imminent:
— IndyFootball (@IndyFootball) August 29, 2014
The signing of Angel Di Maria is certainly a step in the right direction but in comparison to former title-winning United sides, the current one is desperately short of pace and natural penetration going forward.
In that regard, the best option on the market is undoubtedly Fiorentina midfielder Juan Cuadrado – a real road-runner who absolutely destroyed Serie A last season and produced strong form at the World Cup, as detailed below:
Indeed, no player at Brazil 2014 beat the Colombia international’s four assists, including this rather special knock-down to James Rodriguez:
Combining pace, athleticism, trickery and netting prowess, this goal typifies the South American:
He’s also incredibly versatile and was utilised in a plethora of positions by the Florence outfit last season:
Cuadrado’s industriousness, skill and immense athleticism, in my opinion, makes him a strong candidate for the right wing-back role in Louis van Gaal’s 3-4-1-2 formation. But the winger also offers the option of reverting back to the United gaffer’s more favoured and tested 4-3-3 system.
And there may be only a few days of the transfer window remaining but the 25 year-old refused to rule out an Old Trafford switch earlier this week:
Juan Cuadrado won’t rule out a Manchester United move in this transfer window http://t.co/gpwqlzlrWD
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) August 25, 2014
Manchester United aren’t really in the position to let go of centre-backs right now. After saying goodbye to Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand this summer, their only established options at the heart of defence are Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Johnny Evans and new signing Marcos Rojo, which obviously isn’t enough centre-halves to play with three-at-the-back all season.
But if one had to be jettisoned to make room for a new recruit, that defender should undoubtedly be Chris Smalling.
Despite amassing 124 appearances for United and 12 caps for England, the 24 year-old has struggled to adapt to top level since joining the Old Trafford side from Fulham in summer 2010.
As viewable below, his stats over the last few seasons are hardly awe-inspiring:
And his quality on the ball, for a professional footballer, is exceptionally poor:
But with United desperately struggling for numbers at the back and the Three Lions man currently injured, it’s unlikely Smalling will be moved on before deadline day.
The Tottenham centre-back is one of the Premier League’s stand-out defenders and further showcased his qualities at the World Cup with Belgium, but the only rumours we’ve heard this summer are in regards to a new five-year contract, which he’s yet to officially sign.
Capable of playing at left-back or centre-back, Vertonghen would be ideal for the left side of United’s back three, offering the strength and aerial ability of a central defender but also dependable in one-on-one situations out wide.
He’s also a front-footed defender who gained his standing in England by playing out of the back and scoring goals during his first season at White Hart Lane, the vitals of which are detailed below:
Thus, he would suit the central berth in a back three perfectly too. Here’s a look at the Spurs star in action:
The former Ajax man would significantly raise the quality and suitability of the Red Devils’ backline. But admittedly, this late in the transfer window, Tottenham would demand an unprecedented sum for their key defender.
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