Polls can be fun. Polls can prompt discussion. I'm going to offer up this poll because it might be fun and prompt discussion.
The madness of the January transfer is nearing and for the next few months, the rumblings in regards to which players are going where and for how much will be seemingly endless. I know some of you love it. I know some of you hate it. I know some of you just can't help yourself and you usually end up checking out the tiresome speculation (this would be me).
I honestly can't keep track of all of the players that are linked to Manchester United in the papers on a daily basis. Some of the recent names I've seen include the likes of James Rodriguez (Porto), Leighton Baines (Everton), Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace), Tom Ince (Blackpool), Kevin Strootman (PSV Eindhoven), Adel Taarabt (QPR), Angelo Ogbonna (Torino), and a whole bunch of others I've already forgotten.
One thing to keep in mind though is that Sir Alex Ferguson prefers not to do much business in January. There's a very good possibility that United do nothing. However, deals are still possible and the bargain buys of Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra in January 2006 are obvious examples on the impact that they can have. The point of this poll is not really to identify specific transfer targets but instead, it's to see if there are obvious areas in the squad that need an upgrade. Here's a brief position-by-position rundown of the United squad. Be sure to vote for which position is in most need of an upgrade and feel free to discuss it (and specific players if you fancy to do so) in the comments section.
What do we have: David de Gea is an improving 22-year-old with world-class potential and he's also a goalkeeper that cost £17-million in a transfer fee during the summer of 2011. Anders Lindegaard is very capable as well and he appears to have enough quality to be a Premier League starter or a very good backup at worst. 19-year-old Sam Johnstone is currently third-choice with Ben Amos out on loan to Hull City.
Do we need to buy?: No.
What do we have?: We have five very good options at center-back. However, all five of these players have been injured at some point this season. Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand were arguably the best center-back partnership in the world from 2006-11. Now though, fitness is an issue for both and it's uncertain at this moment in time how much they can contribute going forward. Jonny Evans was tremendous last season and he's very much a modern day central-defender. However, he's been mostly inconsistent during his other seasons at United. Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are highly-rated youngsters and despite their talent, patience is required with them due to their extensive injuries in the past year and also because of their inexperience.
Do we need to buy?: Maybe. We certainly don't want to see midfielder Michael Carrick here too often. However, with Smalling and Jones returning to health, and with Rio and Evans to choose from as well, none of these players should be blocked by a January signing -- unless, of course, it was a potential world-class player like a Thiago Silva (not happening) or a Mat Hummels. If cheap cover can be found, perhaps that would be prudent. I personally, though, don't think we need to buy in January for this position.
What do we have?: We have a declining left-back in Patrice Evra (his form has been improved this season though) and an emerging right-back in Rafael. Alexander Buttner provides cover at left-back while Jones and Smalling are capable of sliding over to right-back. Right-winger Antonio Valencia can feature at right-back as well, although this is far from ideal.
Do we need to buy?: No. It's possible that Rafael has been overused at right-back but we now have double cover with the returns of Smalling and Jones. We still don't know a lot about Buttner but he seems adequate as cover right now for Evra. Fabio is on loan to QPR and he could still be in United's future plans. Unless Rafael, Jones, and Smalling all break down prior to January, we don't need to buy. Fergie seems very keen on Everton's Baines though.
What do we have?: Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes are deep-lying technical players and neither is particularly mobile. Tom Cleverley is mobile and he's a calm passer as well, but in more of a box-to-box sort of role. Anderson offers vertical drive and vitality but he is inconsistent and unreliable. Darren Fletcher is still a bit of an unknown due to his chronic bowel condition and he doesn't appear to be as mobile as he used to be. However, the Scotsman is reliable in possession and intelligent with his positioning. Nick Powell is a highly-rated 18-year-old but it's going to be tough for him to get regular time this season. We also have Ryan Giggs but no one wants to see the legend in the center of the park anymore in a meaningful game.
Do we need to buy?: Yes, and this is something that any football fan is aware of by now. I don't think United will buy though because Fergie stubbornly believes in this group of players. None of them are bad players but they'd all be liberated if they had an energetic and/or combative presence alongside them in order to offer protection. Hopefully this need is addressed in the summer or hopefully United surprise us in January.
What do we have?: Antonio Valencia is the best right-winger in the Premier League and he's a stalwart when fit. Nani is immensely talented, if not a bit inconsistent though, and he can play on either flank. Ashley Young is a solid winger as well and he prefers the left-flank. Giggs is slowing down but he can still put in a shift. Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, and Shinji Kagawa can all feature out wide but none of them provide width as each prefers to drift inside from this position.
Do we need to buy?: We most certainly do if Nani is out the Old Trafford door in January. His contract situation is up in the air and he apparently is not happy -- nor will be given a regular role by Fergie until things are sorted out. We cannot sell Nani without having a replacement already lined up due to United's dependence on their wingers for chances created. Don't be surprised if United buy a winger and it seems that they've been linked to a plethora of them.
What do we have? Rooney and Kagawa are two fantastic options to play in behind either Robin van Persie or Javier Hernandez (Chicharito). In fact, RvP can play in behind Chicharito as well. Powell, Young, and Giggs can all feature in the No.10 role too.
Do we need to buy?: No.
What do we have?: We have two world-class players in RvP and Rooney, a tremendous finisher and a hard-worker in Chicharito, and a center-forward in Welbeck that provides an all-around game. Federico Macheda is still in the squad as well.
Do we need to buy?: No.