It’s getting to be that time again. The rumors are swirling on a daily basis. It’s the winter transfer period.
We’ll look at a few of the major European clubs most likely to be active during the transfer period. First up: Manchester United.
Going into the November international break, Man U sit in 7th place with 16 points. They are only a point behind Arsenal and Sheffield United for 5-6th. However, they’re 9 behind fourth place Manchester City. Aaaaaaaand they’re 18 points off of Liverpool’s league leading pace.
What should United hope to accomplish this period? And who should they target? Let’s go shopping with site contributors Tyler Everett, Uttiyo Sarkar, and Peter Taberner.
Manchester United January Transfer Window
Chops: Ok first, what should United’s goal be with these transfers? Europa League qualification, Champions League qualification, or continuing the youth movement? More specifically, do they look at short-term loan fixes like Gareth Bale (someone who, when fit, can help assure Europa qualification)–or do they stick to the plan of more young English players like Daniel James?
Tyler: For many reasons, many of which are related to the ManU business/brand, you have to do everything possible to get back in the UCL for ‘20-21. Revenue is hurting from the absence this year, and you’re looking at a possible sponsor exodus — at least a partial one — if you’re watching the Champions League two years in a row. That being said, rash, outrageous spending for a player who will be useful from January to May is not the way to go. Get a veteran player or two who can finish opportunities, but don’t bet the house on them, and try to add another nice young piece or two like James.
Uttiyo: Champions League qualification is key to making sure the world-class youngsters around Europe are even bothered about pondering on a switch. I think long-term planning is the way to go in order to turn things around at the club. Relying on just young English players could make the side too one-dimensional. I think there should be a good mix of some experienced heads with a few years left in their arsenal along with snapping up promising youngsters like James for lower fees.
Peter: United’s transfer strategy I would expect will continue to mainly focus on buying younger players. It’s an approach that I imagine Ole Gunnar Solksjaer strongly believes in. Its also a model that served Sir Alex Ferguson so well, and the Norwegian is aiming to reintroduce that culture back into the club.
Chops: Anything out of the top 6 would be a catastrophe. There are some temporary fixes–possibly via loan–who keep United in the hunt for the UCL if not via a top 4 finish, then by winning the Europa League.
United need goals
Chops: I think we can all agree that finishing has been an issue. Marcus Rashford has had his moments, but the lack of depth in quality attackers — especially with Paul Pogba out — has hurt them. Keeping in mind that clubs currently in the UCL won’t be selling (sorry, no Timo Werner) or in EPL top 4 contention (sorry, no James Maddison)–what viable options are there for United?
Tyler: Tough question. And before we look at who can solve this, it’s worth wondering whether the law of averages means this team will start scoring more even if it maintains the current cast. The xG of 21.74 through 12 games is fine — it’s fourth-best in the league, to be exact — but the actual output of 16 goals is no bueno. But no, I’m not saying you bank on the current pieces closing that gap. So who do you turn to? As Chops pointed out, bona fide scorers on top teams will not be on the move this winter. So is there anyone in the Championship? Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic (25), Brentford’s Ollie Watkins (23) or Huddersfield’s Karlan Grant (22), anybody?
Also, when the hell is this team going to get a sporting director in its front office? We’ve discussed this before, but you can’t discuss the future of this roster without touching on United’s stubborn refusal to fill what is a crucial role for virtually every club.
Uttiyo: Yes, finishing off chances has been United’s Achilles heel this season. When you look at the fact they’ve created more chances than 2nd placed Leicester, the cracks are evident. So ESPN recently reported ERLING BRAUT HAALAND is someone they’re really interested in to fill the void. He could be the perfect solution to their scoring issues and easily be the 25+ goal striker they’ve missed since Zlatan. Bruno Fernandes could also be the perfect playmaker to unlock the ultimate potential of Rashford+Martial. His robust, aggressive nature can also help Pogba be more expressive. But as United are apparently only looking at long-term targets in January, I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if they end up buying nobody either.
Peter: It will be difficult to sign those types of players in January, and Solksjaer will not make any panic buys.
United may have their designs on James Maddison and Jack Grealish, but Leicester and Aston Villa have wealthy owners and are under no pressure to sell. And both teams have plenty to play for until May with the prospect of UCL qualification and avoiding relegation. They are the types of players that United need, as they have the ability to provide that creative spark which has been missing all too often this season.
Scoring goals has also been a problem, it’s an issue that has eased in recent weeks with the return of Anthony Martial. Yet United still might want to bolster their goal scoring options, the question is will they again look for a young player, or go for an experienced figure such as Mario Manduzic as has been reported.
Chops: Yeah, the reports of a January move for someone like Maddison are comical. He just watched Harry Maguire go from a good situation to a lesser one. Why would he follow? I’ve been high on just get Zlatan and Bale in for five months to see the season out. I do think Bruno Fernandes as Uttiyo mentioned is a viable option. Same with Mario Manduzic. Fernandes in particular could add some dynamism they’re lacking. I saw him over the summer. He pops off the field.
Chops: Depth is also an issue. For United’s standards at least, there’s a lack of quality all around. Name one position they could use added depth and an under-the-radar player who could fill it.
Tyler: This team could certainly use some help in the midfield, especially with Pogba coming in and out of the lineup. A young piece to rotate in and out is probably the most likely answer to this question, but Ivan Rakitic’s days in Barcelona are seemingly numbered. Could ManU land the veteran Croatian??
Uttiyo: Centre-midfield is one area they’re really lacking bodies. Pogba’s injury has been somewhat covered up by McTominay and Fred forming some chemistry. But Fred is still not entirely trustworthy. Nemanja Matic isn’t suited for the system. I think Borussia Monchengladbach’s Dennis Zakaria is someone to be looked into for January. Yes, they’re challenging for the league, but a big bid could change his mind. He works hard, is creative and can score from distance. Should be perfect in bringing more toughness into the side.
Peter: There is undoubtedly room for more experience and presence in the United squad. Constantly looking to 18-year-olds such as Mason Greenwood, is not always a good option, and its put a lot of pressure on young shoulders.
The midfield could also do with a boost, and maybe another older head such as Ivan Rakitic would be a smart move, with Barcelona looking to sell. The Croatian has the ability to pull the strings and add more quality on the ball, as Fred has been a long way off from justifying his £50 million transfer fee.