United’s season is currently going rather well with the club sitting in third place, unbeaten in ten matches. However, many of those matches were not won or drawn by a brilliant performance by the team. Clearly, the team needs strengthening in some areas, and, as the January has arrived, now is the time to do so.
Of course, there are areas that currently need no additions, like goalkeeping. David De Gea is arguably the most in-form goalkeeper in world football, and United has conceded just one goal more than the two clubs at the top of the table, Chelsea and Manchester City, and it’s mainly down to him. Another area that is in no need of bolstering is the attack. With Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, and Radamel Falcao all in the club’s teamsheet, not to mention youngster James Wilson, United’s front line is already well covered with quality.
The first, and possibly the most important area to strengthen is the defence. In the previous match against Stoke City, United’s back three of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans were caught out multiple times, with Evans in particular having an off day. He offered backup going forward, but he was too easily exploited by Stoke’s attack. United have already brought in defender Marcos Rojo in the summer, but he is currently injured, and the current back three, along with youngsters Paddy McNair and Tyler Blackett are all injury prone and are either too inconsistent, or frankly not currently up to the challenge.
Before the turn of the year, United were linked with a number of defenders. Three of the most prominent were Raphael Varane of Real Madrid, Atheletic Club’s Aymeric Laporte, and Borussia Dortmund captain Mats Hummels. All three are talented defenders, but signing any of them would not be easy. Varane was rumoured to be available for 19 million pounds. However, it is highly unlikely for Real Madrid to actually sell for that fee, as he is regarded as the best young defender around. Varane’s compatriot Laporte would command a much larger fee, with his club putting on a 35 million pound price tag for the young defender. That is an astronomical fee, as Laporte has yet to be tested at the highest level. German international Hummels seems like an easier signing, with Dortmund sitting second from bottom in the Bundesliga. That being said, signing Hummels would be a risk, as he is as injury prone as the club’s current defence. Another target worth considering, as reported by Marca, is Varane’s Real Madrid team-mate Pepe. His age would mean that he will not be a long-term solution, but United are not currently looking for a long-term solution. We have a group of young defenders who have yet to reach their potential, and we need a defender to stand in before they do. Pepe might just be that defender.
A large number of supporters have asked for improvement in midfield, naming AS Roma’s Kevin Strootman as the one to sign. However, United have recently brought in Angel Di Maria, Ander Herrera and Daley Blind to improve the midfield area, and further improvement might and should not be needed until at least the summer window.
An area United are currently lacking in depth is the wing back position. When both Rafael and Luke Shaw were injured, wingers Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young were needed to cover. And while Young did very well, Valencia did not. Players that have been linked to the club are Nathaniel Clyne and Seamus Coleman, of Southampton and Everton respectively. Both are very solid, and are more than capable to provide cover, but Coleman is currently a more plausible option than Clyne, with Everton lying in the bottom half of the league, and Southampton are currently in fourth.
Not too long ago, United were linked with a record-breaking 120 million pound bid for Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale. This rumour was quashed by Real president Florentino Perez, who said that Bale is not for sale at any price. This does spark an argument; do United need a winger? The current formation does not see the need for a winger, as it doesn’t use one, but if manager Louis van Gaal wants to revert to his favoured 4-3-3 system, he would need one. In the summer, van Gaal mentioned the need for a world class winger, naming Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria as examples. United did end up signing Di Maria, but he has been used more effectively in central midfield rather than out wide.
Finding a good possible target for a winger is difficult, because no player, other than Bale, has been linked with the club recently. However, there are quality wingers available. One of which is Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri, a left-footed winger currently targeted by Italian giants Juventus. Shaqiri has found regular playing time hard to come by, with the likes of Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery, and Thomas Muller all ahead of him in the pecking order. Another possible target is Dutch winger Memphis Depay. Depay enjoyed a stellar World Cup campaign under current United manager van Gaal, and has already expressed that leaving current club PSV to play Champions League football next season is a possibility. Depay was one of many Dutch players linked with a move to United following van Gaal’s appointment, and his good relationship with the manager might mean a possible transfer.
All in all, the January transfer window is a very important part of the season. Some of United’s most important players have been signed in January, not unlike the likes of Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra, and our most recent January signing Juan Mata, currently playing an integral role for the team. Who knows, by the end of the month, we might be welcoming another important signing.