The January transfer window ended on a rather unsurprising yet interesting note, with the biggest deal of deadline day coming in the form of Chelsea’s £23million swoop for Juan Cuadrado – a transfer that had been anticipated for some time.
Manchester United were particularly quiet last month, compared to their £150million spending spree in the summer, adding only Spain international Victor Valdes, previously unattached, and Bolton youngster Andy Kellett to their squad.
So, should United be praised for not falling into the many traps of the winter market, or is this a window of missed opportunities for the Red Devils?
Perhaps this select XI, combining the Premier League club’s top performers with rumoured January targets, will shed some light on the debate.
Rather than searching for a new goalkeeper this January, Manchester United spent the transfer window keeping Real Madrid’s hands off of their in-form No.1 David De Gea, who boasts more saves than Manchester City’s Joe Hart, Southampton’s Fraser Forster, Arsenal’s Wojceich Szczesny, Liverpool’s Simon Mignolet and Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois this season with an impressive 50 in 23 Premier League appearances.
Louis van Gaal even described a move to the Bernabeu as ‘possible‘ last month and although a Los Blancos bid failed to materialise, the 24 year-old’s return to the Spanish capital could come in the summer instead, with his contract entering its final year at the end of the campaign.
Sky Sports correspondent Guillem Balague believes even if the Spain international were to sign a new deal, he could still end up with the European Champions – so it’s a good job United landed an experienced understudy last month in three-time Champions League winner Victor Valdes.
Right-back has been a bit of a problem area for United this season, with industrious winger Antonio Valencia often filling in for Rafael, who is struggling for both fitness and form.
Resultantly, the Red Devils were linked with Southampton star Nathaniel Clyne by Mirror Football, whose performances at No.2 this season have earned him a regular spot in the England fold, with two caps since his October debut.
The 23 year-old has averaged the second-most tackles per match of any Premier League player this term, four, and at the other end of the pitch, he’s contributed two goals to the Saints’ top-four bid.
With his contract into its final 18 months, many expected the Old Trafford outfit to swoop. Ronald Koeman informed the press that he’d received no offers for Clyne ahead of last weekend however, and The Express has since claimed that United will launch a £15million bid this summer instead.
Manchester United’s defensive frailties, especially at the heart of their backline, are well-known, and one potential January remedy came in the form of PSG’s Marquinhos, whom the Old Trafford side allegedly launched an ill-fated £35million bid for on deadline day.
Rated by The Observer as one of the ten most promising young players in Europe, the 20 year-old’s enormous potential is undoubted – indeed, PSG originally forked out a whopping €32million to lure him away from Roma back in summer 2013.
His pace, anticipation and quality on the ball particularly catch the eye, and having struggled to command a regular place in the starting XI over compatriots David Luiz and Thiago Silva this season, also curtailing his chances within the Brazil national team fold, it’s likely the young defender would have jumped ship to improve his chances of first team football.
Unfortunately however, the Parisians rejected the bid outright.
Another star-studded centre-back known to be on the Old Trafford radar is Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels.
An aerially dominant, World Cup-winning defender blessed with a Franz-Beckenbauer-ability to support, join or instigate attacks from deep positions, the 26 year-old’s credentials as one of the world’s top centre-backs are undoubted at this point, and he’d particularly suit Louis van Gaal’s progressive philosophy.
With fellow suitors Arsenal signing Villarreal centre-back Gabriel Paulista instead and the Black-Yellows slumping to rock bottom of the Bundesliga table, many speculated United would launch a late bid for their long-term target.
Indeed, The Daily Mail quoted a £37million offer but nothing materialised before the 11pm deadline. It’s more than likely the Red Devils will return for the Dortmund skipper in the summer.
Well-endowed in the left-back department through Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, Daley Blind and even surprise stand-in Ashley Young, No.3 is the only defensive position that didn’t require United’s attention this January.
In spite of that however, they landed one of the most bizarre deals of the transfer window – a loan move for Bolton youngster Andy Kellett, also a left-back.
The 21 year-old comes highly-rated however, so the Red Devils are taking a look at him whilst improving their chances of winning this term’s U21 Premier League title. United youngster Saidy Janko, 19, goes to the Reebok in exchange.
With Sporting Lisbon restructuring all their third-party ownership agreements to ensure full profits from any future sales, coveted midfield prodigy William Carvalho was certainly there for the taking last month.
United’s midfield lacks physical presence and the Portugal international could have been the perfect remedy, measuring in at 6 foot 2, weighing in excess of 14 stone and famed for his simple-yet-effective play-breaking style.
The 22 year-old has been linked with an Old Trafford switch on a plethora of occasions and Lisbon admitted in December that they were considering the potential inevitability of selling him mid-season.
Neither United nor fellow suitors Arsenal wrapped up a deal for Carvalho however, so this transfer saga continues.
Having now entered the final six months of his Real Madrid contract, I find it incredibly surprising that none of Europe’s major clubs attempted to prize Sami Khedira away from the Bernabeu on transfer deadline day.
Like Carvalho, he’s another midfielder that would add some much-needed mettle to United’s engine room, as a dynamic box-to-box with ruthless energy, fantastic defensive awareness and imperious ability in the air.
His quality and experience remain undoubted, having won both a Champions League title and a World Cup during the summer, and Khedira certainly strikes as a player who would acclimatise well to the combative nature of Premier League football.
And despite some valuing him as lowly as €18million, no offers came in for the German international.
Perhaps we’ll see some movement in the coming weeks; Khedira is now available to sign a pre-contract deal with non-Spanish clubs.
Wayne Rooney has enjoyed relative success in deeper capacities this season, boasting three goals and one assist from ten appearances in central midfield.
For this select XI however, he’s kindly returning to his more customary role of No.10. With the England international Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, Angel Di Maria and even Marouane Fellaini on the Carrington books, this is one of the few positions that didn’t require Louis van Gaal’s attention during the transfer window.
Lacking the width, pace and penetration of prior title-winning Manchester United sides this season, the Red Devils were resultantly believed to be one of the clubs in the mix to sign Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado last month, who boasts an impressive 15 goals and nine assists in his last 49 Serie A appearances.
Indeed, The Express claimed Louis van Gaal was plotting a late hi-jack of Chelsea’s £23millon offer for the Colombian international, offering prodigy midfielder Adnan Januzaj on loan to sweeten any potential deal.
In terms of pace, trickery, industry and netting prowess, the 26 year-old would have been ideal for United.
But the proposed bid never materialised, and the Blues completed their transfer for Cuadrado yesterday evening. Could the Red Devils be waiting for Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale instead?
Central midfield is the position that’s spawned Angel Di Maria’s best form this season, boasting three goals and three assists in five Premier League appearances.
But his return of two assists in three outings on the left wing, the role he’s performed for the majority of his career, is nothing to be sniffed at either.
With United’s engine room enjoying a more solid base in this starting Xi, the Argentine moves out wide – which could become his long-term position for the Red Devils, depending upon summer arrivals.
With Wayne Rooney utilised in deeper capacities, Robin van Persie’s age showing and Radamel Falcao yet to justify the £47million United would need to spend to acquire his services permanently at the end of the campaign, the Red Devils were linked with a handful of alternative front-men during the winter window.
The most viable option appeared to be PSG’s Edinson Cavani, who blends his powerful, athletic and combative 6 foot 2 frame with a prolific supply of goals, bagging 39 in 66 for PSG and 104 in 138 for former club Napoli.
Despite the Uruguay international’s proven quality at top level, he appears to have fallen afoul of Parisians boss Laurent Blanc, recently receiving a three-match internal ban for skipping the club’s winter training camp.
That lead to The Metro claiming the Red Devils were in talks over a £50million deal for the 27 year-old, but a bid failed to materialise.