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Three ideal January transfer targets to improve Manchester United

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Who should the Red Devils bring in during the January transfer window?

Manchester United v Burnley - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

With the cracks that are starting to show within the team, Manchester United could be active when the transfer market re-opens in January.

José Mourinho knows the squad still has some deadwood that needs to be cleared out. But because they are on such high wages, it’s hard to find other clubs that are willing to match these players’ salary demands.

The manager will think of it as a massive boost if he can sell one or two players and bring in some new faces in January.

During United’s 3-1 defeat to Watford earlier in the season, it was evident that the side’s defence lacked quality.

Furthermore, Mourinho not using a natural defensive midfielder proved to be costly as the side were caught out through the middle on the counter attack.

This shows that the team could do with some upgrades, and the soft defence/midfield needs some steel to it.

Which areas need strengthening?

Centre-back Benedikt Howedes

Although Eric Bailly has been a fantastic signing for the Red Devils since moving to Old Trafford in the summer, United needed another centre-back -- ideally one who has more experience and is known to be a leader at the back.

After Chris Smalling’s fantastic campaign last season, his inconsistency has become a problem as he often seems to lack the game-intelligence to make the right decisions. In Wayne Rooney’s absence, he has been the side’s captain which is quite a shock due to the defender failing to lead by example on the pitch.

According to several reports, Mourinho is looking to sign a centre-back in January and he’ll be keeping Smalling as a squad player. The search for a solid centre-back will prioritise someone who is hard to beat in the air and can read the game well, which makes a move for Benedikt Howedes sound perfect.

Schalke’s number four has been excellent in the Bundesliga so far this season, making more interceptions (39) than any other player in the league. Howedes’ versatility is quite impressive, having the ability to play in any position across the defence. The German international is also known to be an attacking threat from set-pieces.

Right-backMario Gaspar

Manchester United’s current first and second choices in the right-back role are Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian. Timothy Fosu-Mensah is also seen as an option, however he is yet to settle upon a regular role since he can play anywhere at the back.

Whilst Valencia has proven to be a great asset under Mourinho, he is now seen as the weak link in defence due to the fact that he is playing out of position. The Ecuadorian has been United’s right-back for three years, and a new player in position might be helpful to the defensive and attacking side of the game.

Matteo Darmian is expected to return to Italy during the next transfer window. Mourinho will need to find the right target as the options will be limited. He will be looking for an individual that is hardly caught out of position and that can provide United another dimension within the final third of the pitch.

Even though it would be a long shot, Villarreal’s Mario Gaspar would be a fantastic signing forUnited and his current form with the La Liga side has been superb. The 25-year-old is regarded as a solid player defensively and enjoys bombing down the flanks to help the wingers.

Defensive-midfielder Leandro Paredes

The defensive midfield area will be the main position for United to strengthen. With Michael Carrick ageing and Mourinho not fully convinced of Morgan Schneiderlin, there aren’t any other natural options for United to use in this position.

A Mourinho-style defensive midfielder is much needed, especially with the current midfield lacking the right balance. Marouane Fellaini has often been used in a midfield trio, although his abilities are limited and can be a frustrating player to watch at times.

The manager should be looking for a destroyer to sit in front of the defence. During his last Premier League success with Chelsea, Mourinho had Nemanja Matic. Looking at the potential candidates within the top five leagues in Europe, Leandro Paredes of Roma could be the solution for the Red Devils.

Paredes is technically gifted, a set-piece specialist and has the ability to produce a defence splitting pass. The Argentine can also dictat play as well as putting in a shift on both sides of the pitch. Dubbed as ‘the next Zinedine Zidane’, the 22-year-old would be the perfect long-term option that United need.