It’s that time of year again.
Transfer rumors are heating up, and whether they’re true or not, it as a lot of us balancing our hopes and expectations in regard to what should come next in Erik ten Hag’s project at Manchester United.
Here are a few hopeful and realistic predictions from the staff, but first an introduction by Suwaid on what United’s aims should be...
What’s the aim for next season?
The Premier League and the Champions League.
Isn’t that too big an ask?
Yes, and as long as Pep Guradiola’s around, you’ll need a lot of luck along the way, but we’ve got to try. Ten Hag’s got a cup in the bag, so he can put all the eggs in the Premier League and Champions League basket next season.
How do we do that?
We’ve got to improve the away form. It’s great that we’ve turned Old Trafford into a fortress, so this is the obvious next step. We also need players.
Players in what positions?
Centre-forward, central midfield, and goal.
Not really, but those are the key areas.
Who are you looking at?
I like the look of Evan Ferguson and Goncalo Ramos at centre-forward, and Diogo Costa or David Raya in goal.
I’m not too sure about anyone in central midfield. Gravenberch and Lavia seem like good shouts, but what I really want is the next Luka Modric.
So you’re not excited by the links to Kane, Bellingham, Osimhen, Frenkie de Jong and other superstars?
Well, if they join the side, I’ll fully back them but they’re all so expensive, and I just really want a dependable starting XI with solid backups.
Wouldn’t we be a bit light?
If Ten Hag wants to add Frimpong and Timber to this setup, I think we’ll be all right. I’m certain Amad will play for the side next season. He’ll definitely give us something in the attacking third.
Is that all?
That is all.
GK: Mike Maignan or Diogo Costa, CM: Jude Bellingham, DM: Casemiro understudy ST: Evan Ferguson
Jude Bellingham is the future of English football. You ask Dortmund what price, and then you pay it. Then you ask Bellingham’s agent what price, and you pay it.
He’s not a Frenkie de Jong, he won’t dictate tempo the same way, but he will progress the ball. He will carve teams apart with his passing and his drives forward, and he’ll be a building block for Erik ten Hag and Manchester United for the foreseeable future.
Now the other needs are a bit more straightforward. David De Gea has been on the decline for a while now. Whether he sticks around or not remains to be seen, but whether he needs replacing is not up for discussion. Mike Maignan or Diogo Costa would be pricey, but bring in experience and
Meanwhile Casemiro does not need replacing, but his absence leaves the squad without the cement to hold everything together. None of the other midfielders in the squad do what Casemiro does. In fact, none of them even play in a similar role to properly cover in his stead. A Tyrell Malacia-type signing could do United well in this area, someone young and ready first-team tested who has ambition but room for improvement. Someone who won’t require an astronomical investment, but can potentially offer more than just playing in the odd cup game.
Nice’s Khephren Thuram is a name that has been tossed around, and Manuel Ugarte has come into the rumor cycle as well for his part in Sporting’s upset of Arsenal. There will likely be options from relegated clubs as well, like Everton’s Amadou Onana or Southampton’s Romeo Lavia. Someone, anyone, who can do a job from deep in midfield will do.
Finally, the most popular need, a striker who can thread the attack together and carry some of the scoring burden alongside Marcus Rashford. Victor Osimhen would be a big splash, an expensive player who has everyone’s attention, but a slightly cheaper option on a shorter flight south could suit as well.
Brighton and Ireland’s Evan Ferguson has done nothing but earn praise since bursting onto the scene midway through the season. At only 18 he is already a player big clubs are watching, and United have reportedly already scouted him a few times. He’s an exciting talent who ties Brighton’s attack together, and could do the same for a long time at Old Trafford.
ST: Harry Kane, a free agent midfielder, a backup goalkeeper
Unfortunately it seems like the Glazers are more interested in maintaining control with outside investment rather than selling the club outright (shocker), so that means more of the same. They’ll make a big splash signing on someone like Harry Kane, who will score loads of goals while not actually solving the rest of the problems, and then United will scrape by with the rest of their needs.
CM: Jude Bellingham, ST: Victor Osimhen, CM: Gavi,
Have you watched Jude Bellingham play before? Good, I don’t need to break this one down. He’s unreal, and I’d require resuscitation if it was announced that he was signing with United. He would transform this team.
Victor Osimhen is one of the best young strikers in the world. Complimenting exceptional positional awareness with elite measurables, Osimhen has tallied 21 goals and 4 assists so far this season for almost-guaranteed Serie A winners, Napoli. He’s the kind of striker that will take pressure off Rashford having to put the game on his back all the time.
Gavi is an interesting one after a judge canceled his contract registration which allows him to leave Barcelona for free in the summer. The Catalan Giants are appealing this ruling currently which would throw this completely out of whack, but, hey, this is the hopeful section. He’s talented, he’s young, and he plays a position that Manchester United D E S P E R A T E L Y need to strengthen and get the average age down.
CM: Marcel Sabitzer, RB: Denzel Dumfries, Another Aging Real Madrid Star
Marcel Sabitzer has flashed some decent stuff since arriving at United on loan from Bayern Munich. Why this one feels realistic is because he’s an older midfielder that an opposing team probably wants to get off their books, and, well, United love a midfielder that’s walking away from their apex instead of towards it. He probably is a good signing ~ if the price is right ~ but at 29 years old, United will be phasing him out sooner rather than later.
Denzel Dumfries is someone who has some eye-popping moments, and, because of his penchant for being a part of the attack, was the subject of many Twitter jokes during the World Cup that his performance with the Netherlands was going to make Inter Milan a lot of money for a player they might actually want to move away from. Basically, a winger playing further back, he represents the inverse of Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Diogo Dalot and Wan-Bissaka have both really enjoyed some bright moments under Erik ten Hag, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that another fullback is brought in. Did I mention that Dumfries is Dutch?
Raphaël Varane and Casemiro have come on in successive seasons and played really well for Manchester United. At 29 and 31 years old respectively, their transfers were possible because Real Madrid decided to get younger at Varane and Casemiro’s positions after they had played a lot of games and won a lot of things. United needs midfielders and perhaps another fullback. Maybe Luka Modrić and/or Toni Kroos at their combined age of 70 can join the engine room? Has Dani Carvajal at 31 tired of winning Champions Leagues on easy mode and wants to take Dalot’s job? (This whole paragraph has been a parody by the way and I’m not actually suggesting United does any of this.)
CM: Ryan Gravenberch, CB/RB Julien Timber CM: Jude Bellingham, CM: Casemiro backup, GK: Diogo Costa, ST: Evan Ferguson
The theme of the summer should be resource allocation, prioritization, and most importantly, stick to the plan.
If the plan was to take two years to build up a team, install Erik Ten Hag’s system, and then compete for a title in year three, then it’s crucial to remember you’re only going in to year two. Don’t be blinded by your league position this season, your proximity to a title race at one point, or that you may or may not be ahead of schedule. Remember that you’re going in to year two.
This is a team whose starting XI is still a little bit off from a title winner but more importantly the squad itself isn’t close to being a title contender. As it’s currently comprised, the squad is one injury or suspension to the wrong player from completely falling apart (hell, they’ve been compromised all season by Anthony Martial’s absence and he’s far from their most crucial player). Thinking that you’re farther along in the process then you are - or spending big money on “the missing piece” when you actually have many missing pieces will do far more harm than good.
With all that being said, that means there isn’t much difference between this summer and next summer. United don’t have unlimited resources so the priority needs to be how to best use them. Allocating most of your resources to one player who will fix one hole is probably not going to get the job done when you need to upgrade both your starting XI and your depth. Furthermore, if the right player in a certain position isn’t available this summer, don’t overspend to get him. Use the money to fix other holes in your squad and come back to that position next summer. As weak as some areas are, United have reached the Champions League with all these players before, they can do it again.
United still need more midfielders. Christian Eriksen can only play about 60 minutes a match and United have no backup for Casemiro. Fred is a great situational midfielder but shouldn’t start more than 15 matches in all competitions. Marcel Sabitzer has been fine but if United are looking for a lightly used Bayern Munich midfielder, Ryan Gravenberch has more upside and worked with Ten Hag at Ajax. Jude Bellingham goes against everything I just said when it comes to too much money on one player, but he’s a generational player who's not yet 20, if he’s available you gotta at least take a look.
It’s no secret United are looking for a right back and Julien Timber is appealing because of his versatility and ability to play at center back as well. That’s important considering that both Harry Maguire, and Victor Lindelof are likely going to try and leave this summer. You need depth there.
As per usual United’s reported priority is a striker. As per usual if United don’t first sort out their midfield/ball progression/creation issues whatever striker they sign won’t succeed.
I don’t see anyone coming to buy Anthony Martial and I don’t think it’s the end of the world to let him see out his contract and bring in a young guy behind him. Ferguson is reportedly ready to sign an extension with Brighton because he wants guaranteed first-team football, but my man Evan, have you ever seen Anthony Martial’s injury record? You’ll be playing in no time.
RB: Denzel Dumfries, CM: Marcel Sabitzer, GK: Tim Krul (or any other mediocre GK from the Premier League in 2017 to back up De Gea), another over-priced underperforming attacker, a 6th CB in the last 8 years that still doesn’t solve the defensive issues