After last season’s disastrous seventh place finish it was clear that United’s squad needed major improvements. Seven players have been brought into the club – with Valdes being the latest recruitment – and although these players have performed well, new signings need to be made. Among these new signings needs to be a powerful box-to-box midfielder, a world class centre half and a right back. Although centre defence is clearly United’s weakest position, I feel as if the club should wait till the summer to recruit a centre back and focus on signing a right back this month.
The captain is never the first one to leave a sinking ship, and although he seems as if he is keen for a move, Mats Hummels will most likely only leave in the summer. Borussia Dortmund are currently second bottom in the league table and are very much in a relegation battle, letting go of their best defender now would be a ridiculous decision and it could result in the club being relegated. Therefore any deal for the player would most likely take place in the summer. Another rumoured transfer target is Diego Godin. The Uruguayan apparently has a £28 million release clause, a fee United would have no issue paying, and the player would massively improve the defence. However a release clause means nothing when the player doesn’t want to leave, and it seems very unlikely that he will leave a club mid-season when they are serious contenders in three major trophies. So United’s top two targets seem unrealistic at the moment, and Ed Woodward has made it very clear that the club will not sign ‘short term fixes;’ this rules out other rumoured targets such as Vidic, Vlaar and Winston Reid. Kevin Strootman would be a fantastic signing, but Roma appear to be unwilling to sell in January, and it seems as if United want to monitor his fitness and consider a move in the summer.
United’s heavily criticised defence is not as bad as people make it out to be, they have only conceded one more goal than both Manchester City and Chelsea so far this season. Despite the club being plagued with injuries all season and the fact that United dropped seven points in the first three games of the season, the club are in third. A win on the weekend could extent United’s lead from fourth place to four points, and with key players Di Maria, Shaw and Blind coming back to full fitness a top four finish this season seems very likely. This is why I feel that the club are in a position to wait till the summer to recruit a top-class centre back.
Like most United fans I have become incredibly frustrated with the 3-5-2 formation that has been used this season, the defence looks incredibly vulnerable and the midfield is quite often overrun. However Van Gaal has little choice but to play this formation, United only have one first team right back and he is Rafael, who has only completed 90 minutes five times this season. In addition to this, Van Gaal says he is happy to use Young and Valencia but he only considers them to be wing-backs and not full backs. Therefore the only way to fix this lack of depth is to recruit a new right back. I like Rafael, he always gives 100% and it is clear that he loves the club, but he is just too injury prone to be United’s first choice right back, he should be kept at the club and become second choice right back. Seamus Coleman looks like a great player and is at a good age (26). He is excellent going forward and his crossing is significantly better than Rafael’s and Valencia’s; he is easily one of the best fullbacks in the league. Although Everton are no longer under the financial pressure to sell like they once were a few years ago, their first choice goalkeeper and centre halves have a combined age of over 100. They too need new new faces in defence, and £20-£25 million offer for Coleman may be exactly what they need to rebuild. Although £25 million seems a tad excessive for a full back, Coleman could be an important first team player for the next five to six years, and will make it much easier for United to play four at the back therefore it seems like a good investment. It would be great to see United play a diamond formation with four at the back, with an extra player in midfield we can dominate games and play more attacking football.
A back four of Coleman, Jones, Rojo and Shaw is not world class and is still a significant downgrade in United’s defence compared to when we had Vidic, Ferdinand and Evra in their primes a few years ago. However this defence will be strong enough for most league games, and playing this defence would almost certainly result in United finishing top four this season. After this happens I think the club should go all out to recruit Hummels or Godin in the summer, when the club has Champions League football and will be in a better position to sign them.