It has been a poor start to the season for Manchester United, who sit eight in the Premier League and were eliminated from the League Cup by Championship outfit Derby County on penalties, though the Champions League provided a high when the Reds came from behind in the dying moments to beat Italian giants Juventus.
In a Premier League season where the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea all remain unbeaten and playing more attractive football than United, Jose Mourinho has felt the pressure but continues to receive support from Reds, home and away.
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There are no guarantees that Mourinho will be allowed to make up for what was a quiet summer in January, with The Independent’s Miguel Delaney claiming the United boss is set for more frustration with the club’s board.
Below we take a look at what the media is speculating and which players could realistically arrive at Old Trafford in January. Let’s start with our pick of the bunch.
Milan Skriniar – Inter Milan
Manchester United have not had a decent defence in years and it’s a surprise Mourinho has took so long to address this ever present issue. Being the conservative manager he is, renowned for defensive displays in big games, it is a wonder why it’s not worked out for the Portuguese tactician. It’s telling how far United are behind when we’re leaking goals at the back and our players look dumbfound going forward.
None of the defenders currently at United strike are world-class. Victor Lindelof is improving, while Mourinho’s best defender, Eric Bailly, is being overlooked most weeks. It’s a mess and there is a genuine need to spend big money on a player ready to instantly improve the back four.
Step forward Milan Skriniar. He has come a long way in a very short space of time, but he has exceeded expectations with every challenge faced since joining Inter from Sampdoria in 2017. The Slovakian is good on the ball which compliments his positional awareness, and he’s got an admirable aggressive streak.
After a recent performance in the Champions League against Barcelona, Inter manager Luciano Spalletti said the centre-back was worth more than €100 million, as per ESPN. In October, The Metro quoted Skriniar responding to United’s alleged interest.
Big money but top player!
Lorenzo Pellegrini – Roma
According to Corriere dello Sport, cited by the Daily Mail, United are prepared to activate Pellegrini’s £26.6 million release clause and offer the midfielder a contract which would double his current salary.
Though such a move should be made with caution. Pellegrini, 22, has always played in Italy and the transition to the Premier League would be intense if he was to join in January. We’ve seen the majority of United’s recruits from foreign leagues under Mourinho struggle with this, such as Fred, Victor Lindelof and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
But he’s still a player worth keeping an eye on.
After losing Radja Nainggolan and Kevin Strootman in the summer, Pellegrini was tasked with filling the void in midfield and struggled. He is better higher up the pitch where his creativity is more noticeable.
Pellegrini sounds more like a long-term prospect but if his release clause can be triggered at such a low fee, considering how ridiculous valuations in football are nowadays, then Mourinho may want to jump in before it’s too late.
Ivan Perisic – Inter Milan
The Evening Standard reported on Perisic’s alleged shortened valuation this week, with the Croatian winger said to be available for £31 million. That represents good value for a player who stood out at the summer’s World Cup, reaching the final but losing to France, though United don’t need another player for the left-side of attack.
Anthony Martial has hit form again and the Reds should also be looking to find ways for Marcus Rashford to further his development because he won’t achieve that being a bit part member of the team.
It’s clear from watching England that Rashford is allowed to express himself. Gareth Southgate also plays a more attacking brand of football, so it should to be easier for his forwards to flourish, unlike at United where chances in front of goal have become rare.
Perhaps Perisic could change that, but Mourinho signed Alexis Sanchez last year to do that and it has not gone to plan.
Toby Alderwerield – Tottenham
In an article about Alderweireld, the Evening Standard’s James Robson stated his belief that Mourinho is in the market for a top class centre-back. The second defender featured in this piece but not the last.
Not long ago, the 29-year-old was regarded the best central defender in the Premier League, showing his class in England following a move from Spain, where he was also respected after featuring for Atletico Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final.
He has had hamstring problems but if United could sign Alderweireld and keep him fit, the Belgium international could use his experience to rub off on some of the current crop at Old Trafford.
It is often the case that Chris Smalling and co look completely out of their depth and we’ve always wondered what sort of impact an experienced figure like Alderweireld would have on them – not that Smalling deserves to be at United any longer.
Kalidou Koulibaly – Napoli
A popular candidate to fix United’s defensive problems, no doubt, Koulibaly has been outstanding in Serie A again this season and deserves to be seen as one of the best defenders in Europe.
As reported by the Daily Record, Mourinho is prepared to sell both Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo to make up funds to sign the high-rated Senegalese defender.
The Reds struggle to effectively build play from the back, though the potential addition of Koulibaly, whose comfortable on the ball with a precise passing ability, could see that change.
Koulibaly stands at 6ft 5ins, is physically imposing and definitely a player Mourinho should be looking to bring to United.