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Manchester United should prioritize contract renewals over new signings in the January transfer window

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Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly has been linked, but tying down Martial and De Gea must take precedence

Cardiff City v Manchester United - Premier League
David de Gea and Anthony Martial are on expiring contracts
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Juan Mata, Andy Cole and Nemanja Vidić are what Manchester United fans immediately consider when they think of a January signing. That midseason burst to add fuel to a smoking fire. Even before the January transfer window, Eric Cantona’s arrival in November 1992 brought with it the quintessential sense of that injection of class into a team to allow it to fire on all cylinders.

The January transfer window is a fraught time for fans. Summer signings arrive along with the wave of optimism where every team feels as though their team has the capacity to compete in the season ahead. By the January window however, teams know how their teams are performing. They know whether their teams can compete for the remainder of the season or not. For most, optimism has been long tossed out the window and just existing is the measure of the season’s success.

With the caveat of potential new signings. Along with the sudden improvement of form, new signings are the most surefire way to kickstart a fanbase’s optimism if not necessarily the team’s successes.

At Manchester United, January signings have been few and far between, returning to the Alex Ferguson mantra of ‘value in the market.’ Most teams do not want to sell their best players – the only players Manchester United should entertain signing – during January. The signing of Alexis Sánchez last January was an exception as his contract situation meant that Arsenal risked losing him for free in the summer were they not to sell the Chilean to Manchester United.

Furthermore, it is not a signing which would spur United to try and replicate. The Alexis Sánchez signing has yet to bear fruit in Manchester though the sudden improvement in United’s form may yet rise all boats and improve the forward too. It remains to be seen. Juan Mata was another January signing, but justifiable again as he was a top class player at Chelsea who simply was not being played. Over time, he has proved himself to be an important signing for Manchester, if never fully nailing down a starting role.

The most intense transfer rumour about Manchester United this window regards Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly. The 27 year-old has developed a sterling reputation in Serie A in recent seasons and is expected to be high on Manchester United’s radar in their search for a central defender. Napoli are a distant second in Serie A at present and it seems unlikely they would sanction the sale of one of their best players as they attempt to chase down Juventus. Napoli are now in the Europa League and serious contenders to win the competition, further indicating an unlikeliness to sell.

A name that has been rumoured in recent weeks has been that of Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin. Godin was linked with Manchester United on the final day of the transfer window in August before apparently turning United down. The Uruguayan has since agreed a move to Inter Milan for this summer but a short term deal between now and the summer between United and Atletico might be possible. Godin is soon to be 33-years-old but is guaranteed quality in a defence that has lacked stability and quality this season especially.

The most likely outcome of the January transfer window is that Manchester United will not sign any new players. It is not a time to do business after all. Chief Executive Ed Woodward will still be busy on two fronts however; selecting a new manager to take over from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in May, selecting a Director of Football to work with the new manager and renegotiating a number of important contracts at Manchester United.

Both David De Gea and Anthony Martial will enter the post-season with one year left to run on their current deals. In the modern era, clubs do not allow their players to enter the final year of the contracts without re-negotiating new terms and potentially leaving the following season for nothing. Resigning both De Gea and Martial to new, long term deals has to be high on Manchester United’s priority list over the coming months and their renewed signatures would be better than any potential new signings in January.