It seems only yesterday it’s summer counterpart slammed shut but the January transfer window is now upon us, in what often constitutes a rather chaotic time of year for Premier League clubs.
Manchester United fans, in fact, the vast majority of English football fans, will be hoping it’s a window as exciting as the last at Old Trafford, having spent a record-breaking £150million during the summer.
There’s certainly some issues Louis van Gaal needs to address this month, via the transfer market, and just to prove it, here’s FOUR we at Football Fancast consider to be the most important.
So without further ado…
At full strength, Manchester United’s backline is decent, but not exemplary by any stretch of the imagination.
With three academy centre-halves making their Premier League debuts already this season, the problem is obvious – a lack of quality, depth and perhaps most importantly, leadership at the heart of defence.
Louis van Gaal’s preferred remedy comes in the form of Borussia Dortmund star Mats Hummels, persistently linked with a move to Old Trafford since the Dutchman’s arrival in the summer.
A World Cup winner and former Champions League finalist, the German’s quality and experience remain without doubt. The aerial dominance of his 6 foot 4 frame should serve him well in the Premier League, but it’s the 25 year-old’s Franz-Beckenbauer-esque ability to instigate or join attacks, boasting world-class distribution by centre-back standards, that van Gaal particularly admires.
Mirror Football alleged a £35million from United bid last week, taking advantage of Dortmund’s shock slump into the relegation zone, but other sources claim the Red Devils will have to wait until the summer.
Should that be the case, there are some cheaper alternatives to consider. Contract rebels Winston Reid and Ron Vlaar, of West Ham and Aston Villa respectively, could both be on the move this month after rejecting recent contract offers.
The latter defender will be of particular interest to United, having excelled at the heart of LVG’s 3-5-2 formation with the Netherlands at the World Cup.
Louis van Gaal’s adoration for Roma midfielder Kevin Strootman is no great secret.
The Manchester United boss knows the 24 year-old well through the Oranje set up, even issuing him the captain’s armband on occasion, and admitted his interest in Strootman during the summer. Had it not been for a World Cup-ending knee injury, he’d likely be a United player already.
The Red Devils certainly need a figure of his calibre in their midfield. The balance of the engine room still isn’t quite right, but Strootman would provide the required dynamic presence through his impeccable industry, occasional goals and imperious tackling.
The issues remaining are how much United are prepared to pay for the Dutch international, and whether they can dislodge him from the Stadio Olympico by the end of the month, having only joined Roma from PSV 18 months ago.
The Serie A runners-up have valued him as audaciously as £79million in the past, and although that figure could be realistically halved, it’s still a lot for United to pay for a player who’s spent the majority of the current season on the sidelines.
Do Manchester United need another winger? In my opinion, yes.
With Wayne Rooney utilised in a deeper capacity and Angel Di Maria’s fitness rather turbulent, the Red Devils have often lacked the penetrative pace going forward that prior title-winning United sides were synonymous with. Furthermore, if United can land another in-form wideman this month, they can leave the days of 3-5-2 behind, reverting back, in theory, to 4-3-3.
And there’s certainly some options out there this January . Borussia Dortmund winger Marco Reus, for example, has to go somewhere this month or the Black Yellows will be forced to sell him for just £20million, due to a release clause stipulation, in the summer. A number of clubs are alleged to be in the mix, including the Red Devils, but sources from Spain claim he’s already agreed a deal with Real Madrid.
The most viable alternative remains Fiorentina star Juan Cuadrado. The Colombian international’s pace, skill and work-rate has wreaked havoc in Serie A over the last 18 months, totalling 15 goals and nine assists in his last 47 league appearances despite filling in at virtually every position, ranging from right-back to No.10, whenever required for the Florence outfit.
Having also ended the World Cup with the joint-most assists of any player, the 26 year-old’s £27million release clause seems like good enough value.
Then again, the Red Devils could wait until the summer, with reports they’re already planning a sensational bid for Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale.
Louis van Gaal has already dismissed speculation regarding a loan move for Manchester United’s prodigal winger Adnan Januzaj, but it’s an issue strongly worth the Old Trafford gaffer’s reconsideration.
The relentlessly altering landscape at Carrington has resulted in the 19 year-old seeing just 435 minutes’ worth of Premier League action since Louis van Gaal’s arrival – a far cry from his increasingly important role towards the end of last term.
Further experience can only benefit the young Belgian international and, unsurprisingly, there’s a host of clubs reportedly interested in his temporary services.
Whether van Gaal’s mind can be changed however, will likely depend upon United signing another winger first.