Down The Wings

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Which positions do Manchester United steal need to strengthen in upcoming windows?

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

In Erik Hag’s first summer as Manchester United manager, Manchester United made 5 significant permanent signings. Christian Eriksen, Tyrell Malacia and Lisandro Martinez have all been extremely impressive. Casemiro hasn’t had much game time but has shown glimpses of his quality in his cameos off the bench while Antony had a dream start scoring in his debut against Arsenal. 

United certainly strengthened the squad a lot during the summer. However, there’s still a lot of work to do in order to close the gap on Manchester City. Here’s a list of positions that United should look to strengthen in January/next summer:

1. Goalkeeper

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There’s no doubt that David de Gea has been a fantastic player for Manchester United. The Spaniard was arguably the best goalkeeper in the world at one point and has been named Manchester United’s player of the season on multiple occasions. Despite how good De Gea has been, Erik ten Hag’s style of football requires a goalkeeper who’s good on the ball and De Gea simply isn’t.

While Erik ten Hag tried to play out from the back at the start of the season, the Dutchman quickly had to change that due to De Gea’s poor ability on the ball. Instead of playing it out from the back, De Gea now often goes long which isn’t ideal for the possession-based style of football that Erik ten Hag wants to play. While some people may feel Dean Henderson deserves a chance, there are serious question marks over whether he’s good enough to be Manchester United’s no.1 goalkeeper.

Potential Goalkpeer Signing: Diogo Costa

Diogo Costa is an extremely exciting up-and-coming goalkeeper. The 23-year-old is currently playing in Portugal for Portuguese giants FC Porto. He’s statistically one of the best ball-playing goalkeepers in Europe which is exactly what Ten Hag wants. In addition to his ability on the ball, Costa is also a very good stop-stop shotter and is also good at claiming crosses and commanding his area. The Portuguese goalkeeper is also very good at coming off his line and sweeping. Costa reportedly has a €60million release clause in his contract at Porto but United could try to negotiate a lower fee if they decide to go for him. As he’s only 23, if United manage to sign him, Costa could be United’s no.1 for the next 10 years.

If United don’t sign Costa, Brighton’s Robert Sanchez and Brentford’s David Raya would both be very good options. AC Milan’s Mike Maignan would also be a fantastic option. He’s one of the most complete goalkeepers in European football, however, it’s unclear if he’d be willing to leave Milan.

2. Right-Back

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Diogo Dalot has been outstanding so far for Manchester United this season. The Portuguese right-back has taken his game to the next level and has firmly established himself as Manchester United’s first choice-right back. However, United need to sign another right-back to compete with him and also for depth. Manchester United reportedly were really trying to move on Aaron Wan-Bissaka this summer but couldn’t despite interest from West Ham and Crystal Palace.

It’s blatantly clear that Erik ten Hag doesn’t rate Wan-Bissaka highly. Wan-Bissaka has only played 4 minutes in the Premier League so far this season and in Manchester United’s 1-0 defeat against Real Sociedad at Old Trafford, Ten Hag brought Martinez on to replace Diogo Dalot at half-time. Martinez partnered Maguire in central defence while Ten Hag opted to use centre-back Victor Lindelof at right-back instead of Wan-Bissaka.

Wan-Bissaka will likely leave United in January or in the summer. When he does, United will need to bring a new right-back in for depth and to give competition to Diogo Dalot.

Potential Right-Back Signing: Malo Gusto

Malo Gusto is an extremely exciting young talent. The 19-year-old is currently playing in Ligue 1 for Lyon. Gusto is extremely comfortable on the ball. He’s a brilliant passer and an outstanding ball carrier. In addition to that, he’s solid defensively and also poses a threat going forward. At 19, he’s only going to get better and better. If United are able to sign Gusto, they’d have 2 elite young full-backs in him and Diogo Dalot.

Another option could be Denzel Dumfries. United and Chelsea were interested in signing the Dutchman during the summer but he reportedly wasn’t keen on a move right before the World Cup.

While Gusto and Dumfries would both be great, the right-back United sign to replace Wan-Bissaka will likely be heavily dependent on price. If Dalot can keep up his form, United will probably look to sign a right-back who’s good but on the cheaper side as it wouldn’t be logical to invest a significant sum of money on that position when other positions also need improving. With that said though, if United can get Gusto for an affordable price, he’d be a really good option.

3. Midfielder

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According to Samuel Luckhurst, Manchester United are targeting a new midfielder in the next phase of the rebuild. Having signed a specialist defensive midfielder this summer in Casemiro and with Bruno Fernandes and Christian Eriksen as 2 quality options in attacking midfield, it’s likely the midfielder United will sign next summer will be a box-to-box midfielder.

The transfer window only closed about a month ago and it’s been reported by numerous sources already that Jude Bellingham is the midfielder United will look to sign next summer. Despite reports claiming United will make an attempt to secure the services of the English midfielder, it will not be easy. According to the Athletic, in addition to Manchester United, numerous other clubs are interested such as Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid. According to the Athletic, Borussia Dortmund value him at €150million.

Jude Bellingham would be a brilliant signing and would add a lot of quality to Manchester United’s team but with the huge price tag as well as all the competition, Manchester United signing Jude Bellingham is unlikely and United will likely be forced to turn their attention to other midfield targets.

Potential Midfield Signing: Ismaël Bennacer

Ismaël Bennacer would be a fantastic midfield option for Manchester United. He’s a good passer and also has a decent passing range. Bennacer is also a very good ball progressor – over the last year he averaged around 6 progressive passes per game as well as 5.72 progressive carries per game. In addition to his ability on the ball, he’s also quite decent defensively. He wouldn’t be anywhere near as expensive as Bellingham and likely also cheaper than what United were prepared to pay for Frenkie de Jong last summer.

Two other options are Nicolò Barella and Maxence Caqueret. Caqueret is similar to Bennacer. Barella is similar to Bennacer and Caqueret in terms of ball progressing ability but Barella offers a lot more going forward while Bennacer and Caqueret offer more defensively.

4. Striker

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Signing a new striker should arguably be United’s main priority in the transfer market at the moment and the Red Devils certainly need to sign one in either January or next summer.

While some people believe that Marcus Rashford could become United’s main striker, there are many areas in his game that he’d need to improve if he wants to become that. Against teams which play a high line, his pace and finishing in 1v1 situations make him very effective. However, against opponents which sit back and defend, he doesn’t offer much through the middle. Anthony Martial had a great 2019/20 season as United’s no.9 but has had a difficult time even since. Martial can’t be completely written off yet as he had a great pre-season and impressed in the second half against Liverpool in United’s 2-1 win when he came off the bench. Unfortunately, though, he’s missed most of the games so far this season through injury. Martial being injured isn’t anything new – he’s had injury issues throughout his time at United as well as issues with consistency. While there’s no doubting he’s an incredibly talented footballer, he hasn’t proven himself to be the most reliable player during his time at Old Trafford.

Over the last few years, Manchester United have signed many short-term strikers like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Odion Ighalo, Edison Cavani and most recently Cristiano Ronaldo. With Ronaldo set to leave in the summer, possibly even January, United need to sign a quality striker who would be able to lead United’s front-line for the next 5-10 years.

Potential Striker Signing: Ivan Toney

Ivan Toney had a decent debut season in the Premier League last season scoring 12 goals and assists 5 in 33 games. However, Toney has taken his game to the next level this season. He’s had a brilliant start to the season having managed 5 goals and 2 assists in 7 games so far in the Premier League season. He’s excellent at linking the play and holding up the ball. In addition to that, he’s also a brilliant finisher and is outstanding aerially meaning he’d cause a threat from crosses and set-pieces.

There are other options such as Victor Osimhen and Lautaro Martinez however those 2 players are likely to command significant transfer fees. Toney probably wouldn’t be cheap but he’d likely be a lot more affordable than Osminhem and Martinez. Another option is Lille’s, Jonathan David.

Must Buy: Cody Gakpo

While Cody doesn’t play in a position that United desperately need to strengthen, United need to make a move in January to secure the services of the Dutch forward. Gakpo has had a sensational start to the season and was a player United were interested in signing during the summer with the player himself having said he expected to move to Old Trafford.

He’s predominantly a left-winger but can play through your middle and also on the right. The Dutchman is also capable of operating as an attacking midfielder. While he currently spends most of his time playing on the left wing, it’s quite possible that he’ll make the transition in the next few years to become a striker as he possesses the attributes to play there. He’s really good with his back-to-goal and can link the play. Those attributes in addition to his lethal finishing ability and pace mean he could make a very good no.9. If he can improve his aerial ability, he could become a really complete striker.

Leeds United will reportedly try to sign him in January after failing to do so in the summer. With the way he’s currently performing, many other clubs are likely to join the race. United need to act quickly as missing out on such a talent, especially to a rival would be disappointing.

Erik ten Hag will have his own ideas but I feel these 5 players are exactly what Manchester United need. It’s going to be very interesting to see what moves Manchester United make next in the transfer market. While there have been bumps along the way, it’s been a good start so far for Erik ten Hag at Manchester United and it does feel like something special is brewing at Old Trafford.

Founder/Owner of UnitedConstantly

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