If you are reading this article, let me firstly congratulate you on surviving 2015 and secondly wish you a wonderful New Year, as we all prepare for the minute in which footballing geeks like myself enviously watch from the ever-lonesome singles corner as considerably more sociable fellows snog young, beautiful women at the stroke of midnight .
But enough about my dreadful love life and back to the matter of Premier League football. New Year’s Eve can only mean the January transfer window is less than 24 hours away and although the winter market has been a bit of an anticlimax in recent seasons, something tells me January 2016 will buck the trend.
After all, we’re amid a Premier League campaign not quite like any other, where Leicester City are apparently title contenders and Chelsea are looking nervously over their shoulder at the relegation zone.
Manchester United could prove to be one of the Premier League’s busiest clubs next month. They’ve certainly not shied away from spending big over the last few transfer windows and there are still a number of issues Louis van Gaal needs to address if the Red Devils are to overcome the nine-point gap between themselves and table-toppers Arsenal by the end of May.
With that in mind, here are the FIVE transfer issues Football Fancast view as the most important.
Louis van Gaal has discussed his desire to sign a ‘speedy, creative winger’ so much over the last few months that the words are practically scarred onto both my retinas and my ear drums.
He does have a point; although the Dutchman’s possession-at-all-costs philosophy certainly hasn’t helped, United lack a genuinely attacking penetrative threat who can stretch opposition defences or get in behind them. The last player to do that regularly for the Red Devils was Luke Shaw, who hasn’t featured since breaking his leg in September.
The January transfer window is never the ideal time to buy but there are certainly some options out there next month. Riyad Mahrez and Sadio Mane both offer proven Premier League pedigree, for example, whilst Marco Reus’ world-class credentials are undoubted from his talismanic spell with Borussia Dortmund.
I’m a firm believer that any player is available for the right price. What that price is, however, could prove to be the ultimate stumbling block for the Red Devils. Clubs like Leicester and Southampton will expect a huge premium for selling star players halfway through the season.
In all honesty, the Victor Valdes situation is becoming a little embarrassing for Manchester United.
He’s one of the best-paid goalkeepers in world football at a reported £150k per week, but isn’t even allowed to train with the first team squad at Carrington after allegedly refusing to represent United’s U21 side at the end of last season and resultantly finding himself transfer listed during the summer.
Agent Giles Carvajal has confirmed the 33-year-old plans to leave Old Trafford in January, but United must start putting some effort into making sure a departure actually takes place. They left it too late in the summer and have been stuck with Valdes six months more than necessary already.
Of course, that could require terminating his contract which, in the grand scheme of things, probably isn’t the worst scenario.
Having scored the joint-fewest goals of any side in the Premier League’s top nine this season, it’s abundantly clear where Manchester United’s biggest problems lie.
Once again, many will point to Louis van Gaal’s controversial philosophy as the biggest factor behind strike-force Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial bagging just six Premier League goals combined this season.
But it’s certainly true that a world-class goal scorer like Sergio Aguero could drastically improve United’s results and change perceptions of the Dutchman’s preferred style of play.
Of course, the Manchester City star is off limits but if a top-class centre-forward becomes available in January, the Red Devils need to make sure they get to him first.
There are already a few names doing the rounds that would certainly add much-needed firepower to United’s squad. In my opinion, Everton’s Romelu Lukaku, Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain and Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would all be fantastic additions – but can they be acquired for the right price?
As aforementioned, resident No.3 Luke Shaw is set to miss the majority of the season after breaking his leg against PSV Eindhoven in September.
Louis van Gaal has called on a number of players to try and fill the void in the mean time, not least including Ashley Young, Matteo Darmian, Daley Blind and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.
But none are specialist left-backs and none have held down the role for more than a couple of games at a time. If there’s a cut-price solution on the market in January, Manchester United would be well-advised to pounce.
Obviously, the long-term plan is to reintegrate Luke Shaw as quickly as possible, so United don’t need another top-class No.3 who will create huge selection dilemmas a few months down the line.
But Premier League veteran Ashley Cole is available on a free transfer, whilst prodigious youngsters Rico Henry of Walsall and Charlie Taylor of Leeds have been linked over the last few months.
Nurturing young talent is an integral part of the Manchester United DNA and if there’s one aspect of Louis van Gaal’s rule the majority of fans are thoroughly pleased with, it’s the number of youngsters he’s given the chance to impress at first team level.
But we’re now encroaching upon the business end of the season when, providing United still have something to play for, young starlets are inevitably overlooked in favour of their more experienced team-mates.
With that in mind, some of United’s youngsters might benefit more from spending the second half of the campaign elsewhere.
The likes of Guillermo Varela, Andreas Pereira, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Sam Johnstone desperately need more experience to improve their chances of regular first team football next season and plenty of clubs from the Championship would be more than pleased to take them off United’s hands.
Unfortunately, however, United’s catalogue of injury problems might stand in the way of some leaving Old Trafford on loan.