Mario Mandzukic, Eden Dzeko, James Maddison and Jadon Sancho are all linked with moves to Manchester United – but which player should be prioritised in the January transfer window?
It was another gloomy weekend for United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, whose job at Old Trafford may come under some doubt in the coming weeks after a poor start to the season.
United must decide in the coming weeks if they’re going to back Solskjaer in the January transfer window. It’s a difficult time to sign players because clubs don’t want to lose key players midway through the season.
However, the Red Devils need to make up for lost ground after selling players like Romelu Lukaku in the summer and not signing replacements.
Solskjaer’s team is lacking in certain areas — in midfield especially — and Stretty News’ writers have discussed who SHOULD be signed in January.
Leicester City are playing with confidence and look like a team that belong in the Champions League again, and there’s no better illustration of that than James Maddison. The England midfielder has received stick for assumptions of arrogance but that hasn’t stopped him staring for Brendan Rodgers’ side. United need a player in midfield who knows where the goal is and can pick out killer passes to unleash players further forward, not to mention he’s a set-piece specialist. Maddison is also one of the most fouled players in the Premier League.
Leicester proved to be difficult negotiators in the summer when United were working on a deal for Harry Maguire, but we really shouldn’t be struggling to sign players from the Foxes or other English clubs. This is Manchester United but we’ve got an incompetent board who fill us with excuses on an annual basis. It’s time to wake up the sleeping giant and reclaim our place on top of the Premier League.
As hard as it is to narrow down a long list of transfer necessities to just a solitary signing (I want the likes of Chilwell, Sancho and Haaland), many Manchester United fans across the country will be sick to their back teeth of having such a disjointed midfield and their lack of link play with United’s pacey front three. On countless occasions this season, without footballer/basketballer Paul Pogba, United have desperately lacked creativity. So as far as the ‘one’ signing I would target in January, taking realism and the prospect of success out of the equation, I would have to dream about Leicester’s James Maddison. Not only is he a terrific exponent of the dead ball, but it has been his bordering telepathy with Jamie Vardy that has been so devastating this season in Leicester’s ascent to second place. He would allow Scott McTominay to sit a bit deeper, and take the place of Andreas Pereira, who has frankly not done enough on ample occasions to suggest he will make the grade at United. He would come at a big price, given United’s continung struggles and the English premium to boot, but he is a ready-made fit at still a tender age to make himself a United number 10 for the best part of a decade. He is au fait with Marcus Rashford from England duty, is good mates with Harry Maguire and has been pictured in a United shirt from childhood, which hopefully works in our favour at some stage soon.
Midfield is the problem at United so signing a bit of experience wouldn’t be the worst thing. Fantastic technique, great fitness levels and strong mentality, Ivan Rakitic can play all across the midfield and would add a bit of subtlety and nous to our team. Potentially a steal if we act now.
For all the excitement of the comeback in yesterday’s encounter against Sheffield United, it laid bare the issues with our midfield. Andreas Pereira and Fred were found badly lacking in the defensive stakes as the home side looked extremely comfortable. Their passing was also suspect as the ball was given away on a number of occasions. Slack play after a free-kick allowed Lys Mousset unleash a rocket past De Gea for the second goal. It is true their selection was imposed due to injuries for Matic and Pogba and Scotty2Hotty being suspended. But we all knew recruitment was badly needed in this area in the summer.
With the rumours of Pogba being unsettled, and Matic getting slower than dial-up broadband, it is time to get someone in straight away. Bruno Fernandes was the man supporters had expected to arrive during the summer. Either as a complement to Pogba or a replacement for him. But it never materialised. Whether the fee quoted was insufficient, or Sporting did not want to sell him, no-one knows. Fans even feared that he was due to sign for Tottenham instead. But he stayed in Portugal. And he has continued on with his impressive form with both his club and national side. He would be possibly cup-tied for the Europa League but that should not be our primary concern. When you examine his assists and goal stats, he is worth it. Now its a question of the board seeing sense and going in for him properly.
I was tempted to go for Jadon Sancho but the player has frequently hinted that he’s not open to the idea of switching clubs mid-season. Plus we have a potent front three and a central midfielder is more of a priority right now than a winger. That brings us nicely on to James Maddison. Fresh from an England senior debut, Maddison would appear to tick all the boxes as a realistic addition to the United ranks. Not only would he prove the answer to our midfield Achilles heel, but he’s young, British, a star in the making and has been one of the many shining lights in Leicester’s stunning start to the season. January is never an easy time to do deals, though, so it seems more likely that Maddison would come in the summer. He probably wouldn’t come cheap either.
January is always a tricky one, there’s never any real business that can be done. I don’t think the club will go for Fernandes, so that being the case my choice would have to be Mandzukic. He’s a short-term fix which, admittedly, doesn’t suit the current vision for the club, but United need someone in the box for when Dan James is whipping ball after ball into dangerous areas. Greenwood is too young to depend upon, Rashford still doesn’t convince me he’s a striker, and Martial is almost poetic in how hit and miss he can be. All of this taken into account, and the biggest problem that needs solving is a striker. Mandzukic does it for me.
January is never an easy time to pry players away for their current clubs. Numerous targets I’d love to go for, but there’s the realistic side of things too. I’d raid Leicester if given a chance, but they’re flying high and you’d question why they’d make the move.
Bruno Fernandes is probably the one many will want, I can’t say I know enough about him to be that heartfelt in my longing for his signature, but by all accounts his stats speak for themselves.
Throw an offer in, as surely there’s some contact being kept with his agent from the rumoured summer move, and see if we can help our mess of a midfield out with some quality.
Where to start? There are so many areas of the pitch you could point to that need improvement. For me, we need to look at the midfield first. We’ve been lacking all season and the Sheffield match was only further proof. Our lack of depth is ridiculous and for that reason I’d love to have Ruben Neves at the club. He’s only 22 and seems to have good character. Strong on the ball with good positional awareness, he can play a pass and has a smashing long shot in his locker to boot. I think he’d add a bit of composure and confidence to a United midfield that’s been lacking all season. Neves is one that would immediately come in and improve the midfield but still has a lot more to give. He’s not going to be at Wolves for much longer you’d imagine and he’s going to have plenty of suitors. Here’s hoping United drop a bid in January to secure his signature.
When you think of the type of signings United should be looking to make in upcoming transfer windows, Leicester City is a pretty good place to start. We’ve already taken Harry Maguire from the King Power Stadium, so who next – James Maddison, Ben Chilwell, Youri Tielemans? Not quite. I look at Nigerian, Wilfried Ndidi, as exactly the type of midfield enforcer that this United team is crying out for – again illustrated by Fred and Andreas Pereira simply being bullied by Sheffield United on Sunday.
Ndidi was signed in January 2017, filling the considerable void left in the wake of N’Golo Kante’s departure to Chelsea. He is exactly the type of holding midfielder that would provide a platform for United’s young attackers to express themselves and flourish going forward. Perhaps, almost as importantly, he also fits the age profile desired by the United hierarchy – at just 22 (23 in December). His role under Claude Puel at Leicester and, more recently, Brendan Rodgers has been to act as screen infront of the back four – and get the ball to the team’s flair players (Maddison, Tielemans, Vardy etc). He sometimes plays at the base of a 4-2-3-1 formation alongside Tielemans, who plays a more box-to-box role. But is often deployed as the single pivot in a 4-1-4-1, such is his ability to cover ground, as well as make tackles and interceptions. He might play an understated role, but has been key to Leicester’s great start to the season. The process of prising him away from the Midlands club, however, might just be as protracted as the Harry Maguire saga.