Well, this season has ended. Geez, where did time go, right? It seems it was yesterday we were discussing whether Mourinho was tough enough to drop Rooney or not and now we’re discussing if he’s going to China, Everton or MLS. Time does fly when you’re screaming at your TV because of draws at home against Burnley, Swansea or Stoke City. Yes, quite a time to be alive.
Anyway, Manchester United’s season ended on quite a positive note: the club’s first ever Europa League, after a very professional performance against a youthful and exciting Ajax side, granted not only a new trophy (and an international one, at that), but also a direct ticket to the Champions League group phase. Can I get a hallelujah?
So while this year was positive on many fronts and while the team wasn’t exactly playing like a Bielsa side, they were still more exciting and free-flowing than Van Gaal’s team. There’s still a lot to improve and United’ sixth place is a proof of that – no decent Manchester United side can finish in that position and claim they are prepared to face the Madrids, Barcelonas and Bayerns of the world. So, what do United actually need to look for in this transfer market? Yours truly is going to offer you his insight on the matter:
The left-back position was eventually gained by Matteo Darmian in the last two or three months of the season and while he was actually quite good on the defensive aspect of the role, displaying his Italian heritage to its fullest, the former Torino man was basically non-existent on the attacking front and there were times this season where the left side of United’s attack wasn’t effective enough because it just wasn’t there at all.
Since Benjamin Mendy is apparently off to Manchester City to play 5789 passes per game with Pep Guardiola, options in the market for a quality left-back are slim. Danny Rose has been mentioned sporadically and he has been excellent for Spurs since Pochettino’s arrival, but that would demand a negotiation with Levy and we all know how that ends up: United spending an insane amount of cash for a good left-back that shouldn’t command such a high fee. And we don’t think there’s anyone stupid enough to do that.
(*enters Ed Woodward*)
This writer in particular suggested the signing of Roma’s Emerson Palmieri but the young and exciting Brazilian prospect broke his ACL in the season’s last match against Genoa (Francesco Totti’s farewell, by the way). So there aren’t a lot of quality options for United to sign. Bertrand from Southampton is a pretty handy left-back, but considering the club’s last experience with an English left-back from S’oton, perhaps it’s not the best option.
Or we can go into the next season with a regular rotation of Daley Blind, Darmian, Luke Shaw (if he actually stays) and the new kid on the block, Demetri Mitchell. It’s not the perfect scenario, but each player offers something different and that’s always helpful.
Let’s be clear on something: Chris Smalling is awful at football, Phil Jones gets injured enough to become a punchline and while Marcos Rojo had a pretty good run with Mourinho before his injury, he’s prone to the occasional brain fart and he’s a walking red card.
What’s the general problem of these three centre-backs? They are unreliable. You could count on Rio Ferdinand, Steve Bruce, Jaap Stam and Nemanja Vidic. You can count on Eric Bailly and hell, even Dailey Blind and a kid like Axel Tuanzebe. So United needs to invest in not only one player in this position, but two and bin two of the Three Stooges. Nothing against them on a personal level, but it’s time for some cold-blooded decisions.
Michael Keane’s return to home is a positive one: he’s a good defender, loves United, a great attitude if we take his interviews into consideration, can play with the ball at his feet and Burnley’s conservative style of football might help him to adapt to Mourinho’s demands. Other options mentioned in the market are as uneven as Atlético’s José María Giménez, Benfica’s Victor Lindelöf and Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk (who seems to be Liverpool-bound, which means he's going to suck for most United fans).
United cannot go into the next season and pretend to mount a title challenge without assessing this position.
A central midfielder
Michael Carrick (now fresh from his testimonial), Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba and perhaps Marouane Fellaini are guaranteed to stay in the club for the next season. Nobody knows what is going to happen Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Axel Tuanzebe has been deployed there a couple of times this season.
The running rumors are of wide variety in this area. We had the likes of Fabinho and Tiemoué Bakayoko from Monaco, Roma’s Radja Nainggolan and even the possibility of trading David De Gea for Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos. So it’s important to know we don’t have a clear notion of what is Mourinho targeting in this area.
Considering that his abilities are very similar to a young Carrick and his connection with Mourinho going back to their Madrid days, Fabinho seems like the most reasonable choice among these targets and he would add more quality and precision with the ball in terms of passing, which is very important in the European scene.
An attacking midfielder
Let’s be honest: nobody has a fucking clue about what’s going to happen with Antoine Griezmann. But in case the Frenchman stays at Atlético, then the second choice seems to be James Rodríguez, although no serious source connected to United have mentioned that possibility. Things are looking confusing in this area.
A left winger
Anthony Martial didn’t have the best of seasons at Old Trafford this season. We can’t even say he had a decent season. Hell, Jesse Lingard did better than him (I like you, Jesse, but you got to accept your limitations). And considering Mourinho’s criticism of him during the season, it’s no wonder he has been looking at the anti-Martial, Ivan Perišić: the Croatian certainly doesn’t have Martial’s skill-set, talent and sheer ability to amaze, but compensates that with a lot of tracking back, running a lot and working hard to help the team, which is always nice.
Having said that, Inter’s new manager, Luciano Spaletti, apparently blocked Perišić’s 50 million euros transfer to United, so perhaps would be given another shot, right? RIGHT? Yeah, I’m not buying that one, either. Thanks for everything, Tony.
José Mourinho has a pretty clear of what he wants in his new striker: physical presence, hold-up play and a high conversion rate, thus making the rumors of Romelu Lukaku, Andrea Belotti and Álvaro Morata totally understandable.
Of all those options, yours truly is a personal fan of the Italian, but the fees Torino are demanding are just completely obscene (not that would stop Eddy, really). From a more objective point of view, Lukaku seems like the best choice: strong, a natural goalscorer, Premier League-proven and with a high conversion rate. While he’s not the most ductile forward, especially compared to Zlatan Ibrahimović or even Marcus Rashford, the Belgian has proven to be one of the best strikers in the league since his arrival and has only gotten better throughout the years. Would be a great fit for Mourinho’s setup.
Now, we’ll leave it to you: What positions do you think United should address in the coming season? Your answers would be sent to José Mourinho official email account: firstname.lastname@example.org