The task of returning Manchester United to the top of English football is not currently an enviable one. Even for a manager of Louis van Gaal’s stature, it looks as if it is nigh on impossible any time soon.
Ridiculous perhaps that the need for a major squad overhaul is still a desperate one, considering the fact close to quarter of a billion pounds has been pumped into the team, though that is simply the position the Red Devils find themselves in.
While the daunting figure of Jose Mourinho looms large over his former mentor in the Old Trafford managerial hot-seat, even the arrival of the Portuguese tactician is unlikely to be enough on its own.
Ed Woodward can continue his quest a Galactico or two, but missing out on Champions League football once again will surely undermine any attempt to land the world’s biggest stars.
Anthony Martial has proved to be perhaps the best signing the club have made since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, though Mourinho’s likely arrival suggests promising younger stars will not be a major priority in the short-term.
A shame really, considering how good the French forward has been since his ridiculously expensive move. With the elite stars of world football just out of reach, perhaps that is the sort of market the club should be looking into more often.
Still, the arrival of a certain Pep Guardiola at ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City will surely prompt the club into plundering further millions into their playing talent. It promises to be yet another major summer of upheaval in Manchester as they try once again to launch themselves into the top order of the Premier League.
In light of all this, here are FIVE stars to turn Manchester United back into title challengers.
Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has rapidly emerged as one of the elite forwards in Europe over the last two seasons.
The Gabonese marksman has helped his club forget all about Roberto Lewandowski and has a wonderful 34 goals in all competitions this season.
While Dortmund’s imminent return to the Champions League will no doubt be a stumbling block in any potential deal, it’s fair to say the 26-year old is the most likely of his ilk to join Manchester United in their current state.
Pace is fast becoming the key ingredient to Premier League success, more so than it ever has been before. All too often, the Red Devils are lumbering in possession and pose little threat up front.
The notion of pairing Aubameyang alongside Anthony Martial is mouth-watering for United fans, as well as terrifying for defences up and down the country.
Any deal would be hugely expensive, though the Gabon star would give a toothless attack a ferocious bite.
It’s no good having pace in your side if your midfielders only ever pass sideways or backwards. While that’s been a constant theme of most of the Manchester United players this term, it is perhaps most obvious from the likes of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Even with the fastest players in the world upfront, the pair’s penchant (or instruction, depending on who you blame) for a negative pass all but kills any momentum when launching an attack.
So, a move for the latter’s World Cup winning international teammate, Toni Kroos, could provide the Red Devils with a much needed deep-lying playmaker.
The German hasn’t truly settled in at Real Madrid since he move there instead of Old Trafford in 2014 and would surely lift the Manchester outfit.
Next to a protector like Morgan Schneiderlin, the 26-year old could act as the footballing equivalent to a quarterback, pulling the strings from deep and dictating the tempo.
Matteo Darmian arrived at Old Trafford over the summer, tasked with replacing Gary Neville as the club’s first choice right-back. While that’s undoubtedly a tall order, you’d have thought the Italian would have at least managed to represent an upgrade on Antonio Valencia in the berth.
However, even that relatively straight forward task has proved to be out of the former Torino man’s reach. While he’s a decent enough squad option to have on retainer, the club should surely look into finally addressing such a problem area of the squad.
Everton’s Seamus Coleman has been linked with a move to the Theatre of Dreams before, though ultimately stayed at Goodison Park.
If United harbour any hopes of improving their right hand side of defence, they should make a move for the Irishman this summer.
The nature of Everton’s hugely disappointing season would surely be the perfect opportunity to finally prize the marauding 27-year old away.
Daley Blind has done an admirable enough job pairing the ever-improving Chris Smalling at the heart of United’s defence, though cannot be a realistic option going forward.
That is not to say the Dutchman should be cast aside, but as a first-choice centre-back, he is not good enough in that particular role going forward.
An obsession with ball playing centre-halves seems have emerged in recent years, with John Stones capturing the imagination of most onlookers from these isles.
However, although it may not seem like it, the buck does not stop with the Everton defender. Quite the opposite in fact.
Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte could even provide a better option than the England international. The Frenchman is more solid in his duties defensively and better accustomed to organising a backline, despite his tender age of 21 years.
We can wax poetic about just how good it would be to see Gareth Bale in the red kit of Manchester United, or how Neymar would light up the Premier League, but those two moves simply won’t happen with the club in their current state.
Instead, they must target the sort of players who can first return them to the Champions League, while creating a team worth watching. Two things they have failed to do this season.
With the club lacking any sort of creativity, a move for Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne could help ease the burden weighing so heavily upon the shoulders of Juan Mata right now.
The Italian international has been in scintillating form this term as his club chase Serie A glory, scoring 12 times and recording a further 11 assists.
In order to grind out results, they need more players capable of individual brilliance, something the 24-year old can provide in abundance.