Manchester United’s board has told the incoming manager Erik ten Hag that the best possible free agents must be acquired during the summer, with a £100m said to be the budget for an overhaul.
The word “overhaul” is thrown around too lightly in football in modern times however the underlying sentiment remains true — a club that requires a decent amount of change in a short time.
Manchester United has had a difficult time post-Sir Alex Ferguson and the current campaign has been one of the hardest for the club, players, and fans alike. They have a vastly talented squad but a combination of scattered, disorganized recruiting merged with a lack of club philosophy means that “good work” in previous windows could be reduced to naught with the next managerial appointment.
With Ralf Rangnick in place to bring a general “philosophy” and direction to the club’s recruitment, Erik Ten Hag is the manager tasked with bringing the glory days back to Old Trafford. But how much of a dent can he make to half a decade of subpar transfers in one window? Before we tackle that question, first let’s take a look at the targeted positions for summer transfers.
Ten Hag Is Likely to Play a 4-3-3 Formation
Ten Hag is likely to play a 4-3-3 formation with a possession-based pressing system. There’s a strong likelihood that he pairs Donny Van de Beek and Bruno Fernandes as #8’s on either side of a pivot with Fred and maybe McTominay able to provide cover.
It’s looking likely that Ronaldo stays another season but Cavani will leave so a young backup center-forward would be needed. Jadon Sancho should flourish in this system with Rashford and Elanga providing cover. A returning Anthony Martial has a chance to impress and stake a claim to start on the left wing or be the backup striker.
Left-back is well covered and with both Lindelof and Maguire at least able to play in a possession-based system, CB is not at the top of the concern list. Wan-Bissaka might likely struggle to fit into this system so a first-choice right-back might be important.
By some distance, the most important signing is going to be a dynamic, holding midfielder with positional intelligence, and awareness to defend behind marauding central midfielders; but also be a strong base for a possession-based build-up. This is key and should take up half, or even more than half of the budget if the player available fits the profile.
So, the question is, can Manchester United plug the gaps with a £100 million budget this summer? The probable answer is, no. It should not be expected that a single summer and moderately high budget would help the complete revamp.
The likes of Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola took over a season and more money in recruitment to “overhaul” their squads into successful outfits molded into their styles.
But Manchester United Can Sure Make Big Progress in the Process!
Reasonably, we might expect that a large sum of weekly wages will be freed up as well as the potential sale of a right-back might allow more maneuvering room in the transfer market.
As mentioned above, the signing of a quality ball-playing defensive midfielder is vital and depending on their willingness to look abroad and strength of scouting, they might be able to find the right profile of player for around £40 to £50 million. (Would cost significantly more if they are looking for English talent).
A first-choice right-back with technical ability on the ball and good attacking prowess would be seen as important too. Ajax-owned Mazrouai springs to mind as the perfect fit and would have been available for free however he’s now on the verge of joining Bayern Munich.
The move for a striker is tricky because the club needs a dependable center forward in the very near future, with Ronaldo’s contract expiring in a year. But spending big money on a striker of that profile and having him share minutes with Ronaldo may not be ideal for both players involved.
This makes the option of using Martial or Rashford as backup strikers attractive, with money used elsewhere this window and a striker be the priority signing next summer.
The least important signing for Manchester United
Centre-back is the last position I’d expect them to be looking for this summer. While they boast 3 good players, high-profile errors from Maguire and Lindelof’s struggles to hit the highs of his Benfica performances, suggest that a move for a left-footed center-half could be expected. The likes of Pau Torres and Josko Gvardiol might be looked at.
There are a lot of ways United can go this summer in plugging in these holes in a budget-efficient manner including a host of high-quality free agents available on the market or using scouting to identify strong stylistic fits from abroad.
Another option could be to find versatility for example Ajax’s Jurrien Timber or Edson Alvarez could cover multiple positions of need while having the advantage of already being schooled in the Ten Hag system of football.
After a disappointing season, the club looks like its laid the groundwork to finally all move in the same direction and make signings in that philosophy.
There’s plenty to look forward to Manchester United fans with a new man at the help and what’s certain to be a busy and exciting summer of transfer activity ahead!