The idea of new signings and needs for this Manchester United squad is completely open to speculation with the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson and subsequent appointment of David Moyes to patrol the touchline. Predicting the tactics utilized by the new manager is a futile task that is nearly impossible. With that said, there are still some obvious weaknesses in the current squad that need to be addressed and transfers which appear more than likely to happen.
In goal David de Gea has obviously solidified himself as the number one at Old Trafford for the foreseeable future. His deputy is a little murkier, however. Anders Lindegaard has put in a valiant effort to make the goalkeeper position his own over the past two seasons but the writing appears to be on the wall in regards to his career with the Red Devils. Hopefully, he moves on to find more first team minutes. This, however, leaves a vacancy behind "Big Save Dave". Currently there are two additional young goalkeepers listed in the first team on the club's official site. These are Ben Amos and Sam Johnstone. While neither has much Premier League experience, they do appear hungry and have looked serviceable in spot appearances with United or to the clubs they have been loaned. Expect one of these youngsters to be loaned back out and the other to provide cover for de Gea during the next campaign but don't be surprised if one actually departs the club. A signing of an experienced number 2 would not be a surprise either.
The backline has a good mix of veteran and youth throughout. At centre back, David Moyes will be able to go five deep with names like Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand, Jonny Evans, Phil Jones, and Chris Smalling, Those are names that any manager in the world would be envious of to fill the two spots at the heart of the defense. That much quality also allows Vidic and Ferdinand to remain fresh and hopefully at their best for an extended run next term. Smalling is the only question mark at this point and this is more a result of an injury plagued campaign for the England international that saw him only make 10 Premier League starts in 2012-13. Expectations at Old Trafford are that he will return to full health, but the situation still is worth keeping an eye on due to his occasionally shaky form in those limited appearances.
Fullback is where some changes are likely to occur. Rafael looks to have locked down the right back role for the next few years but there is no real cover behind him in the form of a true fullback. Jones has deputised in this role the most but his skill set appears more suited to centre back or combative midfield. Smalling has been another option but he too is best suited for the middle, vice as a fullback. Former Champions League final starting right back Fabio returns from his loan spell with QPR but his inclusion in the squad is up in the air moving forward. Patrice Evra has been immense this past campaign with his team leading 42 starts in all competitions. His form has also greatly improved as compared to the previous two seasons. With that said, Manchester United's vice captain just turned 32 and is on the downside of his career in addition to obviously entertaining interest from PSG prior to the January transfer window. It would not be surprising to see Evra move on this summer due to the change in managers. While the loss on the field is arguable due to the potential replacement, the dressing room would be the hardest hit as Evra is widely acknowledged as a vocal leader. Potential replacements are few as either fullback position has inarguably the largest dearth of world class quality worldwide.
The name that continually surfaces due to the David Moyes appointment is Leighton Baines. The England international is a true attacking fullback that would be an upgrade in the attack from the current version of Evra and is better than any other option on the bench at this point. He knows Moyes and understands his system, which only adds fuel to the speculation on his possible transfer to Old Trafford. Alex Buttner has deputised sparingly this year but has shown his potential when given the opportunity. He has shown even more of a desire to get forward in attack, as evidenced by his two goals in only four starts. An argument can be made that his displays warrant more opportunities and possibly even the nod if Evra decides to depart Manchester. If a departure/transfer occurs within the back four in this summer's transfer market, the most likely scenario is to see Baines replace Evra at left back but don't be surprised to see the status quo maintain for the upcoming campaign.
Central midfield has been an oft discussed area requiring attention over the last few years and this current window it will be more of the same. Paul Scholes has finally departed for good and Darren Fletcher was limited to only two Premier League appearances all season. Their absences leave David Moyes with only three and a half options in midfield (Jones, while a beast of a man that I would allow to father his children with my wife, only counts as half because of his versatility). Michael Carrick just had his most productive campaign since arriving at Old Trafford by capturing the player's player of the year award but durability could become an issue with 31 year old legs that just logged a massive number of minutes in the previous season. Tom Cleverley is young and provides a good option going forward with touch and composure around the box. He, however, does not offer the "steel" needed in midfield to consistently partner Carrick, especially in the biggest of games in Europe and the Premier League. Anderson has been a bit of an enigma since his transfer in 2007. While the talent is clear for all to see, injuries and inconsistent form have plagued the once promising youngster throughout his time at Old Trafford. Speculation has been rampant for months that the 25 year old will be moving on in the summer due to lack of minutes with the first team. The names for replacements are all over the place at this point but the one heard consistently and makes the most sense is Marouane Fellaini. As Gene covered in a previous article, Fellaini could serve as a perfect complement to any other midfielder run into the Old Trafford engine room. Regardless of what happens with the big Belgian this summer, it is an incredibly safe bet that at least one midfielder will be brought in to serve alongside, and possibly replace, Michael Carrick.
Out wide David Moyes may have the most work to do. The once brilliant Antonio Valencia had a hugely disappointing campaign and appeared to completely lack the willingness to take on defenders that characterized his game, until the calendar reached April. Ashley Young battled injuries throughout and was thus limited in his contributions, although he did perform well during big moments (at Manchester City away comes to mind). His constant injury woes may be a continual problem that Moyes would prefer to just move on from. Ryan Giggs re-emerged as a legitimate option wide left after spending the majority of the past 3 seasons in a more central role. His appearances weren't limited to matches when first team players got a needed rest. Continuous high-level performances, home to Real Madrid springs to mind, re-established the Red Devils' elder statesman back as a legitimate option out wide. Throughout the campaign, Giggs appeared to be the only wide player capable of consistently picking out a quality cross. Nani appears the most likely candidate to head for the Carrington exit when the window officially opens in July. His limited appearances were first explained as injury concerns but his availability since January has done nothing to add to the meager seven league appearances this term. While certainly talented, his penchant for selfishness has worn thin with supporters, fellow players, and managers alike. He should still fetch a good price in the neighborhood of £15M based upon his age and quality.
Other players that have deputized out wide are certainly still options in the Moyes regime, in a wide role as well. Danny Welbeck's work-rate out wide is a definite plus, along with his pace and strength. It will be interesting to see where the new gaffer will prefer to play the England frontman. Shinji Kagawa excelled in his two years with Borussia Dortmund in an advanced midfield/withdrawn striker role. While the Japanese playmaker found this position hard to break into with the continued presence of Wayne Rooney "in the hole", he was able to find the pitch in a narrowly lying left winger. Obviously not preferred due to his ability to pick a brilliant through ball, this is still familiar space to the would-be number 10 from his international duties. His play in the wide role lends itself beautifully to a switch in tactics from a 4-4-2 to a more vogue 4-2-3-1. David Moyes vision for his Manchester United squad and personnel decisions will dictate whether another winger is needed. In is somewhat inarguable whether he has options within this group of players but what is not known is if these players can, or want to, excel in a role that is a bit misplaced for them. With the arrival of highly rated Wilfried Zaha from Crystal Palace this summer, but don't be shocked if United wish to stand pat with the status quo.
The group of frontmen inherited from Sir Alex Ferguson rivals the quality of any squad worldwide and doesn't look to be losing the mantle of world's best anytime soon. The previously mentioned Danny Welbeck produced a lacklustre term in regards to goal tally but he made up for this deficiency in versatility and work-rate. Understanding that chances up front would be at a premium, he gladly played out of position both to help the squad in any way possible and see the pitch. Still young and with loads of ability, expect Welbeck to continue on in the same role for the next few years before possible impatience bubbles to the surface, as he still was able to appear in 27 Premier League games, with 13 starts. Javier Hernandez was able to do what he always does this term, despite limited chances, score goals. A return of 10 goals in only 22 appearances and 44 shots is outstanding from the Mexican talisman and probably worthy of more frequent use by the new coaching staff. The possible departure of Wayne Rooney looks to benefit Chicharito more than any other player in the current Man United set-up as he would be clear first choice to partner Robin van Persie up top in a two striker formation due to his fabulous goal return through three seasons at Old Trafford.
The other most likely choice up top with the Dutchman is Kagawa. As discussed in the wingers portion, Kagawa is at his best in the hole behind a lead striker and can play a defense splitting through ball at any moment. Young and talented, Kagawa is a player that most supporters hope to see develop into a truly world class talent while still plying his trade under David Moyes. Van Persie's league leading 26 goals cemented his weekly inclusion and at only 29 years, looks to continue on for the foreseeable future leading the Red Devil's line. Lastly, there is Wayne Rooney. Reports have swirled for some time about his imminent departure from Old Trafford after handing in a transfer request in late April. The front runners appear to be Paris-Saint Germain following statements in the press encouraging Rooney to name his wages with the Ligue 1 title holders. At 27, Rooney may be hitting his peak. But based on current form, many supporters who follow this squad regularly may argue that he reached it two years ago. Now appears to be the perfect time to unload him with United in position to replace his production with a couple different options, unlike they have had in the previous 4 years. There are two years left on his enormous 250,000 pound per week contract and his fee will likely be in the range of £25-40M. This fee could possibly rise with the rumors of a Luis Suarez transfer with an asking price of £50M. Don't be shocked to see Moyes and Edward Woodward stand pat with the recent signing of young Angelo Henriquez last summer. If a top class option comes available that would be willing to fill the role of fourth striker (a la Michael Owen), this may also be a possibility.