After his excellent Manchester United season review piece, Ken Frampton returns to give us his run down of what the Red Devils need to do in this summer’s transfer window. Clear about who needs to come in, ruthless about the players that need to leave, we reckon Frampton could do EdwoodWoodWood’s job, no problem. Read on, and follow Ken on Twitter at @kframpton.
If you thought last summer saw a lot of transfer activity at Old Trafford, you may want to brace yourself – now that the season is over, there is another whirlwind of activity about to get underway. As I’ve said before, the current squad lacks for both quality and depth. Some analysis also backs up the manager’s claim that the ‘selection is unbalanced’ – especially if we are going to continue to play the 4-1-4-1 [or 4-3-3] that he seems to prefer.
Let’s break it down position-by-position and see just how big the job is going to be.
Goalkeeper: Obviously, this one hinges on David de Gea. Will he sign the big-money extension or head home to Spain? Should he stay, Victor Valdes will deputize – and he would be great playing in the cups. Should Dave depart, another keeper will certainly arrive as Anders Lindegaard has been told he can leave and Ben Amos is out of contract.
Right Back: This position calls for a more dynamic offensive player than the simply adequate Antonio Valencia. With Rafael also heading for the exit, look for an impact signing here. Possibilities I’ve heard mentioned: Nathaniel Clyne and Dani Alves.
Right Centre Back: Van Gaal has stated a preference for the central defenders to play on their natural sides – though injuries have most often seen the deployment of anyone who is fit.
The failure to replace Ferdinand and Vidic last summer was a flat-out dereliction of duty by the Old Trafford brain trust, especially as not one of Smalling, Jones or Evans had ever completed a full season of action.
Smalling has signed an extension, so he’s likely staying. So is Phil Jones, who must surely show improvement soon [or his contract won’t be extended past 2016]. Paddy McNair was never supposed to be near the first team, I’m thinking a loan spell would do him good – although I also wonder if the club sees him as a defender for the long-term.
So goodbye, Jonny Evans – and hello to what needs to be a world-class defender, not another ‘project’. If Mats Hummels isn’t interested, than Nicolas Otamendi would be a good option.
Left Centre Back: I think Marcos Rojo is good enough to claim this spot on a regular basis. But if we signed Aymeric Laporte to compete with him, I’d be delighted with that. Respect to Tyler Blackett, who showed glimpses this season – but a loan would be best for him, if I’m honest.
Left Back: Hopefully, with a summer off, Luke Shaw will return to being the fit and dynamic player he was at Southampton. For 30 million quid, he’d better be. There is absolutely no specialist cover for him though – as spells by Young, Rojo and Blind have shown. So, although it’s not a priority, it could transpire that we sign an entire back four this summer. Which is what we should have done last summer…
Defensive Midfield: This role is vital in the possession style of football that LVG wants to play, as evidenced by the topsy-turvy level of performance when Michael Carrick was unavailable. But the man will be 34 this summer, so we will need someone to take over soon.
Daley Blind is supposed to be a specialist here, but the Dutch left-footer was not anywhere near as good when given his chance. Is another such player in the shape of Kevin Strootman the answer? Or will it be Bastian Schweinsteiger – another player that the gaffer knows well? Time will tell, but we are on the lookout for a #6.
Right Central Midfield: Great news! We have two players in this role who are under contract until 2018 and pretty decent. Ander Herrera grew as the season went on and surely has this spot on lock. Marouane Fellaini is a decent second choice here, when he’s not being used as a human battering ram up front.
Left Central Midfield: Juan Mata forged a promising partnership with Herrera in the second half of the season, and his left foot brings the balance that the boss craves. Blind could cover here, as could the potential acquisition of Strootman. I do think we will see one more midfielder brought in, for a total of two.
Right Wing: Angel Di Maria has the quality to play here, but the manager has not been impressed by the Argentine’s willingness to play to instructions. Di Maria also looked good in the LCM role early in the season, but will he stay? I would say yes. Which leaves a lack of good options for this position and a glut of them on the other flank. If Adnan Januzaj is loaned out, we could be short – so maybe that doesn’t happen…
Left Wing: Probably the only other spot on the pitch where things are settled. Ashley Young has been in talks to extend his contract and of course, Memphis Depay has been signed. Simples.
Striker: Well, we have Wayne Rooney… and that could be it. And Wazza’s goal-scoring has not always been enough to carry this team offensively. Falcao is off, and rightly so. Robin van Persie is also potentially leaving. James Wilson is out of contract, although the club have offered an extension.
So, we need to sign someone – but we only play one striker and Rooney, as skipper, is undroppable. I’d prefer us to play two up top, but that’s not up to me. It’s a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside a problem with scoring enough goals.
Summary: So there you have it. If United are to fill all the spots required to balance the squad and bring some quality in depth, I figure there would need to be six or seven major signings by the end of the window. That would be a keeper [should De Gea leave], three defenders, two midfielders and a striker. Some of those spots could be filled by academy products, I suppose, but the word is Van Gaal isn’t confident in what he’s seen coming off the production line.
There are four players with expiring contracts – Amos, Tom Cleverley, Will Keane and Wilson. I’d think three of those are gone, with only Wilson likely to get a new deal.
We also have twelve players who are entering the last year of their agreements – among whom three have supposedly been told they can leave [Lindegaard, Rafael and Evans], two who are 30+ [Carrick and Van Persie] and two keepers in De Gea and Valdes. The others are on the fringes or have been on loan [Jones, Young, Nick Powell, Angelo Henriquez and Chicharito] – so there could be a few departing from that group.
Finally, Nani has also supposedly been told he can search for a new club – this despite his agreeing to an extension until Summer 2018 last season. That’s at least seven outgoing, likely more. So, if like me, you’re planning to catch United during their pre-season tour of the USA – you’re going to want to buy a programme!
Related: Manchester United Season Review