Manchester United were surprisingly quiet during the January transfer window compared to their record-breaking £150million summer spending spree, with their only signing coming in the form of the previously unattached Victor Valdes.
Some will praise the Red Devils for not falling into the many inevitable booby-traps of the winter market, but as a consequence, there’s plenty of issues facing the first team squad that went unresolved last month.
And being the ever-helpful bunch we are at Football Fancast, we’ve listed the FIVE we view as the most important – in the hope the Premier League side will address them this summer instead.
So, without further ado…
If Manchester United had spent any money in the transfer market last month, it would likely have been dedicated to acquiring the services of a top class centre-back. In fact, they reportedly launched an ill-fated £35million bid for PSG’s Marquinhos on winter deadline day.
To give credit where it’s due, Marcos Rojo and Phil Jones – and to a lesser extent, Chris Smalling – have put in some really strong performances of late.
But throughout their backline in general, United desperately lack experience and leadership; the average age of the ten players who’ve represented them regularly in defence this term is just 23.
There were some other options available to Louis van Gaal during the January window, including Aston Villa and West Ham contract rebels Ron Vlaar and Winston Reid, FC Basel prodigy Fabian Schar, Atletico Madrid’s Miranda, through a £25million release clause, and La Liga sensation Aymeric Laporte, valued at £32million, to name a few.
The coveted choice, however, remains Mats Hummels – and it’s more than likely the Red Devils will wait until the end of the campaign to prize the German World Cup winner away from Borussia Dortmund.
Although Manchester United’s attack is already overloaded with world-class personnel – so many that Louis van Gaal is struggling to find a system that gets them all on the pitch – in my opinion, they’re still a little short in the winger department.
Quality wide-play has defined United over the last three decades, and to a lesser extent the Premier League generally, but right now their only true out-and-out, speedy and skilful winger is Angel Di Maria – who’s spent the majority of his Old Trafford career playing in central midfield.
United’s attack has desperately lacked athletic penetration this term – in other words, the kind of threat in-behind a top-drawer winger would habitually provide.
Surprisingly however, the Carrington club made no effort to stand in the way of Chelsea’s £23million move for Fiorentina speedster Juan Cuadrado, who left Serie A with 15 goals and nine assists in his last 49 appearances, also grabbing four assists at the World Cup, and failed to tempt Borussia Dortmund into selling talismanic attacker Marco Reus, last year’s Bundesliga Player of the Year winner, who has now signed a new contract until 2019.
United could likely return for the latter in the summer, although he’ll no longer be available through a £20million release clause. The majority of speculation however suggests they’ll launch an incredible £120million bid for Real Madrid star Gareth Bale.
The world-class qualities of Robin van Persie and Radamel Falcao are indisputable, but their regular casting as a strike-force certainly hasn’t produced the level of goals one would expect from a twosome that boast career returns of 260 goals in 554 appearances and 225 in 375 respectively.
They’ve netted just 14 times collectively in the Premier League this term, and in my opinion RVP and El Tigre are just too similar in style, both famed for their clinical accuracy in front of goal rather than offering athleticism or any significant contribution to link-up play.
For whatever reason, Louis van Gaal doesn’t fancy Wayne Rooney at centre-forward so the Red Devils desperately require more variety up top.
Admittedly, with Falcao’s loan deal already agreed until the end of the campaign, there seemed little point in ruffling up feathers mid-season by sending the Colombian back to Monaco and signing a more diverse replacement.
But it remains unlikely that both will be at Old Trafford next season, the Netherlands international ageing and the former Atletico star reportedly costing around £47million to acquire his services permanently, so van Gaal must decide by the summer which one has a long-term future with the Red Devils.
Once that’s affirmed, United can concentrate on improving the variety of their strike-force. Perhaps a bid for West Bromwich Albion’s poaching prodigy Saido Berahino, who offers pace, trickery and skill in abundance? Or alternatively, Lyon forward Alexandre Lacazette, whose 21-goal return in Ligue 1 is only bettered throughout Europe by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
We did see Manchester United depart with some of their fringe players last month, such as now-West Bromwich Albion skipper Darren Fletcher, defender Michael Keane, who opted to join Burnley permanently after a successful loan spell, Marnik Vermijl now of Sheffield Wednesday and youngsters Ben Pearson, Ben Amos, Jesse Lingard and Saidy Janko – who all joined Football League clubs on loan.
But there’s still plenty of deadwood clogging up the Carrington training pitches whom many expected United to part with during the January window, such as Ashley Young, Nick Powell and Anders Lindegaard, who appear to have no long-term future with the 13-time Premier League champions.
The Red Devils are probably waiting until the summer however, where they’ll likely receive a higher return for player sales.
Without the superfluous form of goalkeeper David De Gea, it’s unlikely Manchester United would be in the Premier League’s top eight this season – let alone the top four.
Indeed, the Spain international has been nothing short of sensational, but that’s resultantly attracted the attention of Real Madrid, who were hotly linked with a bid for his services last month. Louis van Gaal even dubbed the potential move ‘possible‘, with just 18 months remaining on De Gea’s current contract.
United managed to stave off Bernabeu interest last month but their No.1’s future remains unresolved until he agrees extended terms. The Metro claim he’s ‘edging closer‘ to a new deal, but it’s still yet to materialise.
That being said, Sky Sports’ La Liga correspondent Guillem Balague believes even a new contract might not be enough to stop the 25 year-old joining the European champions.