The summer transfer window has finally drawn to close and now it’s time to reflect. Which Premier League side did the best business? Who did the worst? And what glaring transfer opportunities were surprisingly missed out on?
Well, this article takes a look at Manchester United. The Red Devils spent a monumental £150million this summer, with over a third devoted to the record-breaking signing of Angel Di Maria alone.
But to suggest all notable gaps in the Old Trafford squad have now been addressed would be a fallacy. In truth, United failed to bring in a number of realistically available top level talents this summer.
And with that in mind, here’s the FIVE signings Manchester United should have made.
Amid a summer in which Manchester United desperately needed to improve the quality of their defence, I find it borderline criminal that they showed next-to-no interest in Tottenham star Jan Vertonghen.
Not only because the Belgium international has already proved his credentials in the Premier League in two seasons at White Hart Lane, but furthermore, he’s tailor-made for a three-man backline.
Capable of playing at centre-half or left-back, as he did to great success for his country at the World Cup, Vertonghen would be perfect for the left-centre-back role. He’s quick, strong, effective in the air and adept in those all-important 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 in north London- earning a place in the 2013 PFA Team of the Year – the vitals of which are detailed below:
Thus, he’s a natural suitor to the central centre-back role too, which requires building from the back and lots of forward runs. Here’s a look at the 27 year-old in action:
Manchester United have been calling out for ball-playing centre-back ever since Rio Ferdinand’s pace begun to dry up, but alas, the only murmurings we heard about Vertonghen this summer were regarding a new contract with Spurs.
The former Ajax man held out all summer – as if he sensed a bid from a major club, such as United, could be in the offing – but he’s now apparently on the verge of agreeing new terms:
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) September 9, 2014
Failing that, the Red Devils should have made good on their reported interest in Aston Villa skipper Ron Vlaar.
Concrete Ron may not be the most talented centre-back to ever grace Old Trafford but he’s as tough as, well, concrete, and Manchester United’s defence needs an imposing, dominant figure like Vlaar at the heart of it.
Indeed, with Johnny Evans now United’s oldest defender at the age of 26, their backline has lacked leadership, organisation and direction this season.
Vlaar could have proved an astute solution – he performed an identical role to great success, surrounded by young, inexperienced defenders, for the Netherlands at the World Cup. Here’s a look his stats from the tournament:
And Vlaar in action:
The 29 year-old comes with a proven reputation in the Premier League and Aston Villa are hardly in a position to make audacious demands in regards to Vlaar’s potential transfer fee.
But no move ever materialised and the former Eredivisie star remains at Villa Park for now.
The record-breaking signing of Angel Di Maria addresses this issue somewhat but in comparison to previous title-winning United sides, the current one is desperately short of pace going forward.
In my opinion, the strongest realistic signing United could have made this summer to add some penetration to their attack was Fiorentina star Juan Cuadrado, linked with an Old Trafford switch on a multitude of occasions throughout the transfer window:
Man Utd to make £32M bid for Fiorentina star Cuadrado today http://t.co/LhcH9Hdxuk
— Tribal Football (@tribalfootball) August 21, 2014
The road-running Colombian absolutely destroyed Serie A last season and brought his form to the World Cup, as detailed below:
In fact, nobody bettered his four assists at Brazil 2014, including this knock-down to eventual Golden Ball winner, James Rodriguez:
Combining pace, athleticism, trickery and netting prowess, this goal typifies the South American:
And once mooted as Dani Alves’ eventual successor at Barcelona, the versatile winger, who featured in defence, midfield and attack for Fiorentina last season, would have been an inspired choice for the right wing-back role in United’s 3-4-1-2, whilst providing top quality cover for other positions.
Cuadrado claims talks were held with both the Red Devils and Barcelona, but the move never happened and now he’s on the verge of signing a new contract:
Man Utd target Juan Cuadrado close to agreeing new Fiorentina contract http://t.co/rMgRchmqPW
— Off The Post (@offthepost) September 8, 2014
With Germany World Cup winner Toni Kroos now at Real Madrid, one has to question how legitimate reports were linking him with a Manchester United switch earlier this summer.
According to the Daily Mail however, David Moyes had a deal in place to sign the midfielder, as he refused to extend his Bayer Munich contract past 2015, until Louis van Gaal pulled the plug.
What a monumental error of judgement – Kroos has proved himself to be one of the top central midfielders in world football over the last few years, boasting three Bundesliga titles, a Champions League title and a World Cup medal at the tender age of just 24.
The Mannschaft playmaker was in exceptional form at Brazil 2014 and for the Bavarians last season, as detailed below:
His technical-yet-industrious style would have suited Louis van Gaal’s philosophy perfectly and rectified the lack of creativity and craft in United’s midfield.
But for whatever reason, the Old Trafford boss shunned the midfielder, leading to a move to the Bernabeu for an incredibly reasonable £20million. Here’s a look at Kroos in action:
Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher are decent holding options but Manchester United’s squad still lacks an old-school ball-winner of the Roy Keane variety.
That could eventually arrive in Roma star and Louis van Gaal favourite Kevin Strootman, but if not, and after losing interest in Arturo Vidal due to his recurring knee injuries, United can look back to this summer and ponder why they didn’t bid for AC Milan’s Nigel de Jong.
The 29 year-old may not be pretty but he’s certainly effective; he was essential to the Netherlands’ efforts at the World Cup and despite the Serie A side finishing in ninth last season, showed impressive form throughout, as detailed below:
Furthermore, having spent three-and-a-half years at Manchester City, picking up the English title in 2012, de Jong offers vital experience in the Premier League, as well as being well acquainted with Louis van Gaal’s 3-4-1-2 system.
Here’s a look at the Oranje enforcer in action:
With just a year left on de Jong’s San Siro contract, he could have been picked up for a pittance this summer.