In the summer, Manchester United secured the signature of Christian Eriksen on a free transfer and even though United have signed many big name players for big transfer fees, Eriksen has arguably been one of United’s best signings in recent years, having made a significant impact this season before suffering an injury which will likely keep him out till late April or early May.
Eriksen is a great example of how United can use the free agent market to sign quality players without having to pay any transfer fee. This summer, there are numerous players who are likely to be available on free transfers with their contracts at their current clubs set to expire unless they sign a renewal.
Here are 5 players Manchester United could consider signing on a free transfer in the summer:
While Manchester United do need to sign a striker this summer and probably another centre-back, United will likely sign more players in midfield than in any other position.
Scott McTominay has fallen out of favour at Old Trafford having had very little game time in recent months. The possibility of signing Marcel Sabitzer on a permanent deal to be his replacement is real but even if United do sign Sabitzer on a permanent basis as a squad player, United still need to sign a specialist ball-progressing midfielder to play next to Casemiro. It’s no secret that Erik ten Hag was desperate to sign Frenkie de Jong last summer but United’s pursuit of the Dutch midfielder proved unsuccessful meaning Christian Eriksen has had to fill in as the no.8 next to Casemiro. While Eriksen was impressive for United in that role prior to his injury, he’s not a specialist and has spent the majority of his career playing higher up the pitch, in the attacking midfield role.Embed from Getty Images
There are noises United will make another attempt to sign Frenkie de Jong this summer but, should their second pursuit of the Dutch international be unsuccessful again, one player they could turn to fill that position next to Casemiro is Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans.
Tielemans is likely to leave Leicester City on a free transfer this summer with his contract at the King Power Stadium set to expire. Tielemans would be a great signing on a free transfer and would be a decent partner for Casemiro. United need a central player capable of progressing the ball forward and Tielemans can do that — in the last year he averaged 1.23 progressive carries per 90 as well as just over 7 progressive passes per 90. Signing Tielemans on a free transfer would be an astute piece of business by Manchester United.
Evan NdickaEmbed from Getty Images
It’s very clear that Erik ten Hag wants a left-footed centre-back playing in the left centre-back position. When Lisandro Martinez hasn’t started, instead of using Victor Lindelof or Harry Maguire who are both centre-backs, Ten Hag has used left-back Luke Shaw instead because he’s left-footed.
While Luke Shaw has filled in very well at left centre-back in the absence of Martinez, he offers United a lot more when he plays at left back, which is his preferred position. Therefore, United must sign a back-up for Martinez and Evan Ndicka is a quality defender, who’s likely to be available on a free transfer this summer with his contract at Eintracht Frankfurt set to expire this summer.
The 23 year-old left-footed centre-back would be a very good backup for Lisandro Martinez but United will need to move quickly to secure his signature, with many of Europe’s top clubs including Barcelona reportedly monitoring his situation.
Marcus ThuramEmbed from Getty Images
It’s blatantly clear that Manchester United need to sign a striker this summer and that will be one of Ten Hag’s main priorities heading into the summer window. United have been linked to the likes of Victor Osimhen, Harry Kane and Goncalo Ramos and while United will almost certainly sign a high-profile expensive striker this summer, the Reds will possibly have to sign two with Anthony Martial facing a possible Old Trafford exit due to injury issues. Should Martial leave, United will need to sign two strikers and Marcus Thurman would be an excellent signing.
Thuram’s contract at Borussia Mönchengladbach expires this summer and a number of Europe’s top clubs will likely be after his signature. The 25 year-old striker has found the back of the net 14 times in 23 games for Gladbach this season. Thurman would be an excellent back-up to whichever big name striker United signs this summer and he’s also capable of playing on both wings.
If Manchester United do want to sign Thuram, they will need to move quickly due to all the other clubs interested. Thuram has been linked to United but has also been linked to Barcelona, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Atlético de Madrid.
Adrien RabiotEmbed from Getty Images
Failing to sign Frenkie de Jong last summer complicated Manchester United’s midfield plans. While United ended up signing Casemiro who has been unbelievably good so far, United also tried to sign Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot once signing Frenkie de Jong started to become implausible.
After losing their opening game of the season to Brighton, it came out that United were working on a deal to bring Adrien Rabiot to Manchester. The Reds reached an agreement with Juventus for the French midfielder for a fee in the region of £15m/£20m but failed to reach an agreement with Rabiot on personal terms.
As it stands, Rabiot is yet to reach an agreement with Juventus to extend his contract which expires in the summer. Should that stay the same, Rabiot will be available on a free transfer this summer.
While Rabiot isn’t world-class, he is definitely a good player and would be a decent partner next to Casemiro. He’s very good from a defensive point of view but is also a decent ball progressor, having averaged 5.12 progressive passes per 90 over the last year as well as 2.29 progressive carries per 90.
He would be a good squad player but there are better options United could sign this summer to fill the no.8 role. In addition to that, Rabiot’s agent and mother Veronique Rabiot is notoriously known for how hard she is to negotiate with, which was the reason as to why Rabiot’s transfer to Manchester United fell through last summer. Free agents also usually ask for higher wages and signing-on fees as there’s no transfer fee involved, meaning Rabiot’s demands will likely be even higher.
There’s no doubting Rabiot has quality but selling Scott McTominay for a decent fee and signing Marcel Sabitzer on a permanent deal would probably be better business. However, if both McTominay and Sabitzer leave the club, then signing Rabiot on a free in addition to signing another midfielder would be decent business.
Branco van den BoomenEmbed from Getty Images
Marco van den Boomen is a Dutch midfielder who currently plays in France for Ligue 1 side Toulouse. Van den Boomen has enjoyed an extremely successful period in France and unless he signs a new contract at Toulouse in the coming months, he will be available on a free transfer this summer.
Last season in France’s second division, Van den Boomen registered an astonishing 12 goals and 21 assists and was integral to Toulouse getting promoted to Ligue 1. The Dutch midfielder has continued his impressive form this season in Ligue 1 having already scored 5 goals and registering 7 assists. While he adds a lot of goals to Toulouse’s team, he’s an extremely progressive player which is exactly what United need. In the last year, he’s averaged 1.30 progressive carries per 90 and has also averaged an astonishing 9.25 progressive passes per 90 which ranks him amongst the best progressive passing midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues.
Manchester United have to be better in the market and exploiting the free-agent market is something the club has to do more often. Ndicka and Thuram would both be top signings and while the 3 midfielders on would be good signings, especially Branco van den Boomen, United have to try again to sign Frenkie de Jong this summer to fill the position next to Casemiro. As frustrating as another Frenkie de Jong saga would be for Manchester United fans, he fits Erik ten Hag’s team so well and is exactly what United need — a press-resistant elite ball-progressing midfielder/carrier.