With a crash, a bang and a bit of a whimper, the January transfer window slammed shut at 11pm on Monday.
It was one of the Premier League‘s most expensive winter windows to date, with all twenty clubs shelling out a combined £175m to push the division’s spending for the 2015/16 season to a record-breaking £1.045billion.
Surprisingly absent from the free-spending scene, however, were Manchester United.
Indeed, the Red Devils are short on fitness in defence, pace out wide, firepower up front and are five points away from a Champions League spot, but were one of just two Premier League sides – along with relegation-bound Aston Villa – who failed to make a single signing.
Was that due to the ambiguity surrounding Louis van Gaal’s future at Old Trafford? Perhaps. But the club certainly had money to spend last month and there were a number of options on the market worth their consideration.
With that in mind, here are FIVE players United could and should have signed during the January transfer window.
Louis van Gaal has commented on the need for a ‘speedy, creative’ winger so much over the last few months that the words are practically burned onto my retinas, and Lazio’s prodigious Felipe Anderson ticks both of those boxes perfectly.
The Brazil international is famed for his blistering pace, trickery and goals, now boasting 15 strikes from his one-and-a-half campaigns as a regular member of the Serie A outfit’s starting XI.
But no move ever materialised and despite a 3-0 win over Stoke City earlier this week, United still lack counter-attacking dynamism in the final third.
Despite a rather harrowing injury crisis at the back that has seen Marcos Rojo, Matteo Darmian, Antonio Valencia, Luke Shaw, Ashley Young and Phil Jones all sidelined over the last few weeks, Manchester United never appeared close to signing a defender during the January transfer window.
There were certainly a handful of decent options on the market, however, not least including Juventus utility man Martin Caceres.
The Uruguay international has performed well in a variety of positions during his five campaigns in Turin, namely both full-back slots, wing-back and centre-back, and is no novice in regards to clubs of United’s stature. Alongside the Old Lady, the 28-year-old has plied his trade with Sevilla and Barcelona whilst representing his country on 68 occasions.
Furthermore, Caceres’ contract is set to expire at the end of the season, so he was available for a pittance last month. Perhaps he wouldn’t have uprooted trees at Old Trafford, but an experienced, versatile and cheap defender was surely the ideal solution to United’s injury problems.
A similar vein of thought to Martin Caceres, Alvaro Arbeloa could have proved a very astute mid-season addition in the context of United’s recent injury problems.
The 33-year-old’s never been the most spectacular of defenders but has rarely let down club or country during his 230 appearances for Real Madrid and 56 outings for the Spanish national team, as part of a squad that won consecutive European Championships either side of the 2010 World Cup.
Much like Caceres, Arbeloa’s Bernabeu contract expires at the end of the season and having been issued just four La Liga outings this term, with Dani Carvajal and Danilo above him in the pecking order, Real Madrid would’ve unlikely put up much of a fight if they received a bid for the veteran defender last month.
Capable of playing at left-back, right-back or centre-back, the former Liverpool star could have plugged a few important gaps until the end of the season.
Carlos Bacca finds himself stuck on the fringes of world football’s striker elite and now aged 29, he’ll probably never truly break through.
Nonetheless, United are desperately short of firepower at the moment and the Colombian international offers goals in abundance, boasting an impressive career record of 204 in 392 appearances throughout his spells in South America, Belgium, La Liga and now Serie A.
A stocky, yet speedy striker famed for his unorthodox style – such as his Rabona goal in this season’s Coppa Italia – Bacca seems a particularly good fit for Premier League football.
There were rumours of a £30million bid, which is probably a slightly overzealous valuation considering the former Sevilla star’s age. But that sum will seem like a drop in the ocean if United miss out on Champions League qualification for the second time in three seasons come the end of May.
Halfway through the transfer window, manager Laurent Blanc not-so-subtly hinted he wouldn’t mind parting with Edinson Cavani, quickly leading to rumours claiming the PSG striker was in talks with Manchester United.
But nothing ever came of it, perhaps due to the Uruguay international’s age and potential market value. He’s already 28 and PSG would probably expect to recoup at least of their original £55million investment from summer 2013, which hasn’t proved to be a particularly cost-effective one.
Nonetheless, the 6 foot centre-forward’s scoring record is nothing short of phenomenal, amassing 104 goals in 138 appearances for former club Napoli and 69 in 120 for the Parisians, and he would have provided United with some much-needed support to Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial as well as a more direct outlet when going forward.
Once again, the absence of a dependable goalscorer of Cavani’s stature could cost the Red Devils dearly in the race for a top four spot.