It’s getting closer isn’t it? Summer is in the air, bees and wasps (can’t stand them, more annoying than trying to decipher a Steven Gerrard interview) are starting to appear, that summer holiday is getting ever closer, and the transfer market is looming ominously, just over the horizon.
It’s that time of year when all things are possible (if only in journalists minds), when dreamers dare to dream, and the rumours have already begun. United are linked with hundreds of players every summer, but rarely are the media stories accurate. Last summer? Over 100 players linked with moves to United. How many signed? None.
It seems certain, however, that United will enter the market this summer, and strengthen in some pretty major areas, with Edwin Van der Sar hanging up his gloves and Paul Scholes (in all probability) hanging his boots on the next peg along. So where will United strengthen? And who will they sign? Here I’ll attempt to separate fact and fiction and hopefully provide a window into the summer ahead.
It seems almost certain United will sign a goalkeeper this summer, with the decorated Dutchman hanging up his gloves. So who are the candidates in this key position, and will Sir Alex learn from his mistakes when attempting to replace The Great Dane.
David De Gea
A goalkeeper of commanding presence, De Gea (nicknamed Van de Gea for his similar stature to Van der Sar) has already accrued experience under pressure in Atletico’s Europa League triumph last season, as well as facing Messi, Ronaldo, Villa and (last season) Silva in La Liga. Arguably one of the brightest young prospects around and is certain to become Spain’s first choice between the sticks.
Potential Price: £20m
Neuer, older than De Gea at 24, has been linked with United for even longer than De Gea. Forced into Germany’s World Cup starting XI due to the death of Robert Enke and Rene Adler’s injury, Neuer was a key figure in Germany’s march to the semi-finals and has also been key in Schalke’s progression to a Champions League semi-final against United.
Potential Price: £15m
This would certainly be controversial wouldn’t it? Liverpool’s first class Spanish stopper, idolised by the Kop, moving to United. If his nationality was anything other than Spanish, Reina would be first choice for his country, but is held back by the excellent Iker Casillas. A keeper with excellent reactions and a tendency to frustrate penalty takers with his agility.
Potential Price: £25m
Verdict: For me it has to be De Gea due to his youth and potential to be United’s first-choice keeper for 20 years (or more). De Gea would provide a calmness and assurance and is certainly not inexperienced, despite his youth.
United’s central midfield has been the focus of much criticism from fans and pundits alike this season, accused of a lack of creativity, a problem which will only become worse if Paul Scholes were to retire in the summer.
Inter Milan’s world class attacking midfielder was at the centre of both their treble triumph of 09/10 and the Netherlands march to the World Cup final, where they were defeated by Spain. A class midfield operator (many would argue the best in the world), Sneijder pulls the strings, often from a position just behind the striker. May be a gamble as unproven in Premier League.
Potential Price: £35-40m
The man many United fans crave to replace the Ginger Prince, Modric, originally considered too lightweight when he arrived in England, is calm, composed, able to find space and pick a pass, as well as pop up with the odd goal, albeit only two this season in the Premier League. His passing range is excellent, although, like Sneijder, he seems to need the insurance of a purely defensive minded player alongside him in CM.
Potential Price: £30-35m
He had to pop up somewhere. A man who’s been a bone of contention on Twitter for weeks, as arguments rage between me an everyone else (it seems) concerning his merits as a future United player. The Blackpool captain has a superb passing range, capable of splitting a defence with a subtle ball or pinging 60 yard crossfield passes. Also provides a massive threat on free-kicks (something lacking at United right now), is a clinical penalty-kick taker and provides leadership and drive from the centre of the park.
Potential Price: £8-10m
The young prospect on this list is player with great potential, a man who can play at centre-back and in defensive midfield, central midfield or attacking midfield. Unclear what his best position is, but some believe he has the potential to become another Roy Keane for United.
Potential Price: £15-25m
Verdict: I know there’ll be some stick for this but I feel that with United’s potential outlay probably standing at £20m or more on a goalkeeper alone if De Gea joins, we simply won’t be able to afford an outlay of up to £40m on Sneijder or £35m on Modric (Redknapp actually said he wanted £50m for Modric a few weeks ago). Therefore I’d sign both Adam and Rodwell from this list, adding another £23m to the £20m for De Gea.
A winger may well be a luxury rather than a necessity this summer, with Giggs, Valencia, Nani and Park already on the books but adding depth may well be useful given that, at times this season, players such as Fletcher, Hargreaves and Bebe have been pressed into service on the flanks.
An exciting winger who can also play through the middle behind the striker, Ashley Young will only have a year left on his contract this summer and, with Giggs now at the age of 37, United will need a replacement soon.
Potential Price: £15m
Has set Serie A alight this season, firing in goal after goal for Udinese, as well as impressing for Chile at the World Cup. Was likened by Sir Alex to a young Cristiano Ronaldo.
Potential Price: £25-35m
The exciting young Welshman was recently voted Footballer of the Year by his fellow professionals and has been likened to a young Ryan Giggs.
Potential Price: £30m
Verdict: A winger is probably not essential, although if perhaps just one CM was signed, Young may also follow behind.
Signings: De Gea, Adam, Rodwell/Young
Total Outlay: £43 million
Even if Young were to be signed instead of Rodwell, is would not affect the total outlay of the club, which would still be £43m. I also wouldn’t rule out a striker being signed for £10-15m, making this a summer similar to 07/08.
Van der Sar (Retired)
If these departures occurred, United would recoup £21m in fees, making net spend £22m.
Please note, this is just my opinion about what may happen based on simple logic about the players who will retire (and therefore areas which need to be strengthened), but guessing what SAF will do is very difficult. The signings I suggested (De Gea, Adam, Rodwell/Young) would add immeasurable depth to United’s squad and provide potential for variation tactically, providing SAF with options. Feel free to disagree (as I’m sure many of you will), and leave comments below.
Read more of Josh’s articles at the excellent Red Flag Flying High
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