It’s been a season of solid progress for Manchester United – especially after the sorrows of last year under David Moyes.
Indeed, after some teething pains at the start of the season, Louis van Gaal’s methods and philosophy have finally taken effect, heralding a run of 16 wins out of a possible 24 since mid-November.
But the Red Devils are still very much a work in progress, and a long way behind champions-in-waiting Chelsea – something their 1-0 defeat to the Premier League champions earlier this month only further amplified.
The Old Trafford outfit are expected to attack the transfer market with another £150million war chest this summer, however, and a few well-thought signings could take them a long way next year.
In fact, we at Football Fancast believe the right acquisitions could even guarantee United next season’s Premier League crown – and just to prove it, we’ve listed five players who’d cement the Red Devils’ place as next term’s champions.
If a team is only as good as it’s strikers – as claimed by Steve Bruce – then Manchester United find themselves in a spot of bother. Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao and Wayne Rooney are all fantastic talents, but the former duo look set to leave Old Trafford this summer, whilst the latter’s future under Louis van Gaal could well lie in midfield.
Indeed, the Red Devils need a new front-man and there’s few better in Europe than Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, who boasts 126 goals in 228 appearances throughout his career in Germany and is one of the only strikers in the history of football to score four goals in one game against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.
In terms of physique and style, the big-and-burley, old-fashioned centre-forward suits the Premier League perfectly.
And despite reports claiming the Bavarians have already refused to sell the 25 year-old to Manchester United this summer, a significant sum upwards of the £40million mark might convince them otherwise.
They did, after all, sign the former Dortmund star on a free transfer last summer, and although he’s one of the top striking talents in world football, he’s not a natural suitor to Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka philosophy.
Right backs aren’t often mooted as Premier League title guarantors but following a campaign in which Man United have depended on winger Antonio Valencia to fill in at No.2 for the struggling Rafael, Southampton’s Nathaniel Clyne would hugely improve the Red Devils’ shape and flow both with and without the ball.
The 23-year-old has been in fantastic form this season, notching up two goals in 31 league appearances whilst averaging the third-most tackles per-match, 3.5, of any Premier League player, as part of a Saints defence boasting the healthiest goals conceded column in the division.
That’s seen him emerge as Roy Hodgson’s preferred choice of No.2 within the England fold, and also generated a wealth of interest from the Premier League’s higher powers – further encouraged by the former Crystal Palace youngster verging upon the final year of his St. Mary’s contract.
Mirror Football’s David McDonnell has even claimed Clyne’s move to Old Trafford is already agreed, at the cost of £17million. But Saints director Les Reed has since stated the England international will be extending his terms on the South Coast.
Manchester United have been chasing after Mats Hummels for years, but could finally get their chance to snap him up this summer following Borussia Dortmund’s horrendous 2014/15 campaign, which has seen them fail to qualify for the Champions League and part company with enigmatic manager Jurgen Klopp.
The 6 foot 3 centre-back’s reputation as one of the best defenders in world football was cemented last summer as he lifted the 2014 World Cup with Germany.
But it’s his Franz-Beckenbauer-esque ability to instigate or join attacks from deep positions which is arguably more important for the Red Devils; they desperately lack a centre-half with the quality and confidence to bring the ball into midfield – whilst Hummels’ immense experience at the top level of the game will inject vital leadership into United’s youthful backline.
Although it may seem like an unrealistic target to some, considering Real Madrid have adamantly denied Gareth Bale will be put up for sale this summer, Manchester United desperately need a dynamic threat like the Welsh wizard pronging their attack.
The 25-year-old’s quality and suitability to the Premier League is without question, boasting 65 goals in 131 appearances over the last three seasons – including 26 strikes during his triple-award-winning ultimate campaign at Tottenham Hotspur.
But more important is Bale’s power, energy and pace; United have lacked habitual threat in behind opposition defences this season, often rendering the likes of Rooney, RVP and Falcao rather static in the final third, but the Wales international would address that in abundance.
Signing him would also serve as an enormous statement of intent on the Red Devils’ part, striking fear into the hearts of next season’s title rivals, and according to the tabloids his Real Madrid contract contains a release clause of £75million – which should be within United’s financial reach this summer.
Whether the free-scoring winger is ready to quit the Bernabeu this summer, however, after just two years in the Spanish capital, remains to be seen.
Manchester United’s perpetual struggles in the absence of Michael Carrick this season – their win-rate without the England international plummeting from 75% to 37.5% – suggest the Red Devils need some bolstering in the middle of the park, and there’s no centre-mid enjoying more demand at the minute than Juventus star Paul Pogba.
It’s with good reason; the France international blends the athletic dominance of his pacey and powerful 6 foot 2 frame with inventive trickery and a consistent return in front of goal, this term bagging seven goals and two assists in 22 Serie A appearances whilst averaging 2.5 tackles, 1.5 created chances and 3 successful dribbles per match.
He’s already the total midfield package at just 22 years of age and is widely expected to leave Turin this summer after claiming a third consecutive Serie A title with the Old Lady (providing Juve claim four more points from their last six games), with Barcelona, Chelsea and Man United all linked by the British press.
Whether Pogba would want to return to the club he spent three years at without ever making a dent on the first team, however, remains to be seen.