Manchester United have some serious work to do in the transfer window under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. After taking a look at the Red Devils’ options in both the goalkeeper position and defence, today, it’s the turn of midfield.
This is what feels like United’s biggest problem position, fronted by none other than mercurial Frenchman, Paul Pogba.
Manchester United’s most likely transfer targets (midfield):
This area needs major surgery if United are to progress. The current central midfield options of Paul Pogba, Scott McTominay, Fred, Andreas Pereira and Nemanja Matic feels even weaker when you consider the fact that Pogba has both hardly played all season and clearly fancies a move to Real Madrid to link up with his idol, Zinedine Zidane.
There have also been a few injury concerns surrounding McTominay this term – who has arguably been our best player. The jury is still out on Fred, who I personally don’t feel is good enough while Pereira looks like a stereotypical top-level footballer in appearance and physique, though his performances have flattered to deceive.
This summer, the contract of Nemanja Matic is also due to expire and although Solskjaer has said that he will not leave this January, I cannot see Matic being offered a new deal due to his age, performances and ability to play the high-intensity football Solskjaer wants the club to be playing going forward.
Therefore, at least one player will be added over the summer to fill the gap, but Solskjaer needs to find quality if he wants to challenge the top-four positions, while annually challenging for major trophies both domestically and in Europe.
Then you have Juan Mata who looks to be past his best, but is still contracted until 2021. Who knows what’ll happen with his long-term future.
Target-wise, several fit the profile of player Solskjaer is looking for, including James Maddison, Jack Grealish, John McGinn, Sean Longstaff and Todd Cantwell. They’re all Premier League based and would, therefore, need less time to adapt.
It has been stated by the Mirror that United have offered Leicester £45m plus Jesse Lingard for England international Maddison this January, however, the chances of this deal going through feel slim-to-none.
Not only do Leicester not need Lingard, but they are in a position to secure a Champions League spots under Brendan Rodgers this season and like United, are in the Semi-Finals of the Carabao Cup and still in the FA Cup. The Reds have already conceded it’ll be difficult to secure the 23-year-old this month. Perhaps a fee of around £65-70m will be enough to secure the services of self-confessed United fan Maddison over the summer.
Another player who can play in the same position as Maddison is Jack Grealish, who is having an outstanding season with his boyhood club Aston Villa.
It has been rumoured that Solskjaer is a big fan of his and would love to make a move for him. However, as his Villa manager Dean Smith said last week, United can ‘look but they cannot touch’. The injury problems at Villa Park, coupled with the relegation battle they are involved in means it’s nigh-on impossible that they’re going to part with their prized asset at this point.
Grealish is the sort of character United need, but the likelihood is that he’d love to establish Villa back in the Premier League before departing. I can actually see him staying at Villa Park to help them going forward, then potentially moving on further down the line. Due to this, I certainly cannot see Grealish coming to Old Trafford over the next two windows.
I can, however, see Todd Cantwell and/or Sean Longstaff being bought this January at the earliest. The Geordie midfielder has been compared to ex-Red and current coach Michael Carrick. Ironically, his brother, Matty Longstaff, is in a position to replace him in the Newcastle side should he move on.
The older Longstaff would bring composure and a good passing range to our midfield and given his age, could be at the club for numerous years. The current injury crisis at St James’s Park through means Steve Bruce may try to keep ahold of the youngster until the summer.
A transfer for tricky Norwich midfield ace Cantwell could also be made this month. He has impressed in his first Premier League season and is another who appears to have attitude, confidence and swagger to make it at Manchester United going forward.
With Norwich almost certain to go down this term, the Canaries may be more willing to part with Cantwell for the right fee, possibly around £30m.
Another Villa man, Scottish international John McGinn, would fit perfectly into United’s midfield alongside his national team colleague Scott McTominay. He is currently out injured though, so this one will have to wait until the season’s end at the earliest.
It’s clear that many midfielders will inevitably be linked with an Old Trafford switch over the foreseeable future. Maybe one will come in this winter, possibly Longstaff and/or Cantwell and then Maddison and McGinn this summer to continue the rebuild. They may not seem like the finished article yet, but Ole and the club are looking long-term, which definitely makes sense at this point in time.
In terms of outgoings, Matic is likely to leave on a free, possibly to Tottenham or to Italy or Russia and Pogba ominously looks to be on his way to the Spanish capital, probably for less than the £150m the board would like. Still, whatever sort of fee United will be used to help replenish and improve the squad.
Young players James Garner and Dylan Levitt will be in and around the first-team as they look to make their big breakthrough.