Down The Wings

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What positions do Manchester United need to strengthen this summer?

(Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Following another trophyless campaign and the club’s lowest ever Premier League points total, Manchester United certainly need to make some signings this Summer ahead of Erik Ten Hag’s first season in charge.

With Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata, Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Edison Cavani already out the door following the conclusions of their contracts, and a host of established first-teamers expected to leave the club as well, there are going to be gaps left in the squad that need filling.

Whilst many Reds fans want ten in and ten out in one window, it is important to be realistic; United never really sign more than three or four senior players in one transfer window, but with that being said, the Glazers do tend to be more extravagant in the market when the club finds itself playing in the Europa League, with the American owners bound to be desperate to get back into the Champions League and earn the sweet revenue that comes with it.

For any chance of progress under Ten Hag, he needs to be backed in the market.

Here is a look at the four key areas of the pitch and where acquisitions may be necessary…

1. Goalkeeper

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It feels like there are one hundred and one immediate problems to address in the United squad before signing a goalkeeper to replace David De Gea. Although the Spaniard is up there with the best in terms of his shot-stopping, there is an argument to be had in relation to his command and authority of the penalty box, as well as his distribution.

The 31-year-old had a stellar campaign last time out, though, as shown by his Players’ Player Award coup, and it seems logical to see what De Gea can do in a more expansive team that play more on the front foot under Ten Hag. His departure seems very unlikely, and the discussion over if he can be bettered is one for a later date.

Despite Newcastle’s interest in Dean Henderson reportedly not as concrete as it was made out to be, it should be expected that the former Sheffield United loanee will leave the club in search of regular starting spot. Absolute emergency option Lee Grant has now left. This could mean Tom Heaton becomes the immediate number two behind De Gea, but former United keeper Sam Johnstone has been linked with a return to the club from West Brom which would see him probably take Henderson’s spot in the pecking order.

Truth be told, United never really make sense when it comes to the goalkeeper department. You would think there are more critical issues to deal with in other areas of the pitch, but you simply never know what the club have in mind.

2. Defenders

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In relation to right-backs, transfer guru Fabrizio Romano recently said that senior figures at Old Trafford have every intention of keeping Diogo Dalot at the club this summer, but would be happy to listen to offers for the once £50m man Aaron Wan Bissaka. Ethan Laird is set to return from his mixed loan spell at Bournemouth, but the step-up is probably too soon for him to be playing Premier League football, whether that be as a starter or a backup choice to Dalot. Brandon Williams has made his intentions clear, and it seems that it is ‘left-back or leave’ from his standpoint.

With Djed Spence available following a stellar campaign in the Championship, as well as a host of under-the-radar options across Europe, it makes sense for United to sign a Wan-Bissaka replacement to provide competition for Dalot.

It is widely understood that Eric Bailly and Phil Jones are looking to pursue a career away from the Theatre of Dreams, so centre-back reinforcements are a must. Teden Mengi and Di’Shon Bernard are arguably ready to step up and join Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane and Victor Lindelof in the core group of senior centre-halves, but many feel that it is time United signed a starting option to accompany Varane, with Maguire’s stocks at an all-time low of late.

20-year-old Jurrien Timber looks like the preferred centre-back signing to arrive from Ajax with Ten Hag, with Villarreal’s Pau Torres an ever-present name in the Manchester United rumour mill. Whoever it is, a centre-back seems necessary this summer in the eyes of most fans.

At left-back it would appear that United can get by another season with Luke Shaw and Alex Telles. Shaw had an underwhelming, injury-ridden last season and many have been quick to write him off, but it was not so long ago that many were branding him ‘Shawberto Carlos’ in 2020/21. There is definite quality in Shaw. In spite of his flaws, Telles is a worthy enough backup for Shaw next season should the Englishman stay fit. 19-year-old Spaniard Alvaro Fernandez is always there for emergency backup, too, and would likely relish an opportunity to play in the first team.

Tyrell Malacia is a hot prospect from Feyenoord at the moment, but left-back does not seem to be a necessity here and now in the eyes of the club and many of the fans, for that matter.

3. Midfielders

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It did not need Matic’s departure for United fans to know that the signing of a midfielder was an absolute must this summer; the 33-year-old Serbian has been on the physical decline for a few years now, and neither Scott McTominay nor Fred have shown themselves to be defensive midfield material in his absence. Although, when looking at Ten Hag’s style of play, it could be expected that United are to start games in a 4-2-3-1 next year with two box-to-box midfielders as opposed to a sole, central defensive midfielder.

Nonetheless, it would not do any harm to have a couple of new midfielders with some positional and defensive smarts in the side next year. Barcelona’s Frenkie De Jong seems like he is being forced out at the Nou Camp, with the Catalan giants looking to cash in on their star asset to help the ongoing rebuild of the club. The deal seems there to be done should De Jong warm to the idea of sacrificing hot Spanish weather and Champions League football to join his former manager for dingy Mancunian clouds and Thursday night fun. There is a wide variety of box-to-box midfielders being linked to the club at the moment. James Garner is set to return to Carrington following a great campaign at Nottingham Forest last year, a loan spell that saw him earn promotion to the Premier League. Whether he stays as part of the squad or gets another loan remains to be seen.

Pogba, Lingard and Mata are also gone, which means more attacking midfield options need to be looked at. Hannibal Mejbri is a good shout to fill the void, yet a Premier League loan could be the best thing for him should one become available. Andreas Pereira cannot be ruled out completely; with his time at Flamengo having come to an end, the ‘pre-season Pirlo’ could be in the thoughts of Ten Hag ahead of the opening day should he pull off his annual masterclass on tour.

Brentford’s Christian Eriksen seems a tidy profile of player to aid the squad; the Scandinavian has the footballing intelligence and know-how that Ten Hag will want to instil into the style of play, and who is to say that he couldn’t bench an underperforming Bruno Fernandes at the moment ahead of 2022/23?

A couple of central midfield reinforcements are crucial, as well as a buffing up of the attacking midfield position- the club cannot go into next season with Fred, McTominay and Fernandes, and that is indisputable.

4. Attackers

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Although many fans will disagree, the idea of Marcus Rashford being sold is probably not even worth entertaining. Without going into club politics too heavily, he is worth way too much to the club as a commercial asset, and the club is worth way too much to him for his own off-field ventures.

With that being said, Anthony Martial is set to leave after seven years, and with Cavani also gone, Ten Hag cannot afford to go an entire first season with Jadon Sancho, Anthony Elanga and Cristiano Ronaldo alongside Rashford. The young winger and now-Argentinian international Alejandro Garnacho can contribute, as can the likes of Shola Shoretire. You never know what Ten Hag has in mind for returning loanees Tahith Chong, Amad Diallo and Facundo Pellistri, but the signing of a senior forward seems necessary.

With Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez joining Manchester City, two of the hot striking names are now null and void. Benfica’s Darwin Nunez is the name on the lips of United fans across the world at the moment, but with Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and even Newcastle all looking for a striker of their own in whatever form that may be, and with little alternatives on the market, the people upstairs at United ought to act fast and efficiently should they want to secure his services.

Summary

In an ideal world, United fans would probably sign an entirely new squad if it was possible. This article shows that there are signings needed in nearly all parts of the pitch. Whoever Manchester United sign, though, it is important that Erik Ten Hag is backed properly as he looks to rebuild the club.

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