At Old Trafford, winds of change are ushering in. Michael Carrick, club captain and the last remnant of the glorious double-winning team of 2008, has stepped out on the field for the last time, as a player. Although they’ve found their new calling as fullbacks, converted wingers Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young, two other stalwarts from the Sir Alex Ferguson era, give most fans the feeling of ad-hoc round pegs in square holes.
— Michael Carrick (@carras16) May 13, 2018
After finishing a disappointing 19 points behind arch-rivals Manchester City, the Red Devils will be gunning for a better season in 2018/19. They are third favorites for the league title, according to Betfair Premier League odds, something they will be keen to improve on. At the top of their to-do list for the summer will certainly be a replacement for Carrick, and competition for Valencia and Young, the other two loyal, long-standing servants of the club.
Who could they be? Let’s take a look.
1. Sergej Milinković-Savić (Lazio, Serbia, 23)
One of the hottest properties in Europe right now, Sergej Milinković-Savić, will certainly cost United some big bucks. Standing at 6’4”, the youngster has all the attributes of a typical Jose Mourinho midfielder – his strength is something to contend with, he ensures an aerial presence in midfield and provides raw power. With Marouane Fellaini’s contract also coming to an end, the young Serbian could be Mourinho’s new powerhouse in midfield.
What sets him apart from other tall, strong midfielders is his technical skill. He has creativity in abundance, and is a force to be reckoned with on the ball. The Spanish-born midfielder has supreme vision and a wide range of passing. At just 23, he is far from a finished product, yet a vital cog in Lazio’s push for a Champions League spot this season, and will also be key in Serbia’s World Cup challenge in Russia. He’s one who chips in with goals too – he has scored 12 league goals this season. It could also enable Paul Pogba to play a freer role. He will be dear though, as Lazio have been quoted to be wanting a fee of over £80m for the starlet.
2. Fred (Shakhtar Donetsk, Brazil, 25)
Another player who has seen his stock soar recently, Fred could provide Man Utd with something different. A player who has also courted interest from rivals City, Fred impressed against them in Shakhtar’s Champions League encounters against them – one of which was City’s first loss of the season. A box-to-box midfielder, the Brazilian is a workhorse – he is an adept passer and a dribbler, as well as a solid body defensively.
Someone who can also come up with the incisive through ball, Fred’s strength lies in his ability to make roaring runs from deep midfield. Rated at £40m, the midfielder looks all set to move to the Premier League. His performances have also yielded a Brazil call-up for the World Cup.
3. Jorginho (Napoli, Italy, 26)
Another City target, Jorginho, could be the engine that United desperately need in their midfield. The Brazil-born midfielder has enjoyed immense success at Napoli, being a crucial part of their 2nd place finish in Serie A. He has been part of the engine room at Maurizio Sarri’s rampant Napoli side – being the man that makes them tick. No player in Serie A has made more passes than Jorginho this season. A regista by trade, he would represent a like-for-like replacement for Carrick. More than capable defensively, Jorginho too could enable Pogba to move into a more advanced role.
4. Scott McTominay (Manchester United, Scotland, 21)
The solution to this problem may actually be within. Scott McTominay, an academy product, has enjoyed a breakout season. Mourinho has taken a liking to him in particular – McTominay was named as the Manager’s Player of the Year in the United awards. The Scotland international was even favored over record signing Pogba during a juncture of the season.
A tall, strong lad, McTominay is a typical #6. He has started several big games this season, including against Chelsea, Liverpool and a Champions League knockout against Sevilla – making no mistakes while doing nothing spectacular, just what you’d expect from a #6. With Fellaini also likely to leave, he could receive a role with increased prominence as the physical presence in midfield.
1. Seamus Coleman (Everton, Republic of Ireland, 29)
Another long-term United target, Coleman has just recently come back strongly from a disastrous double leg-break injury, which kept him out of football for almost a year. A no-nonsense defender, the right-back is equipped with something most other targets don’t – crucial Premier League experience and pedigree. United have seen him, came up against him for years and know just what they’ll get.
🙌 | Seamus Coleman will be in the squad for Wednesday's clash with @LCFC!
— Everton (@Everton) January 29, 2018
An Everton cult hero, Coleman could be looking for a new challenge. A tough-tackler, the Irishman came back from his crippling injury in December and has put in several solid performances for Everton. Fondly nicknamed “Goalman” by the Toffees faithful, the ex-Sligo Rovers man also has an eye for a goal.
2. Thomas Meunier (Paris-Saint Germain, Belgium, 26)
A self-confessed United fan, Meunier has been in and out of the PSG set-up and could be looking for pastures new. After a decent debut season at the Parc des Princes, Dani Alves’ arrival and repeated run-ins with the PSG fans have not been good news for Meunier’s stay at the French capital.
A hard-worker in defence, he is quick to push forward in attack. Meunier also possesses the eye for a dangerous cross. Having come into prominence with a great display at Euro 2016, the fullback has also made the right of Belgium’s defence his own. Someone who doesn’t shirk his defensive duties, Meunier could be again in focus in Russia.
3. Timothy Fosu-Mensah (Manchester United, Netherlands, 20)
A versatile youngster, Timothy Fosu-Mensah could be a wildcard candidate for the right-back spot. Having enjoyed a successful loan stint at Crystal Palace this season, Fosu-Mensah started a majority of the league games for the Eagles this season. The Dutch international put in several solid performances, and has progressed well as a player. Playing week in, week out in the top flight will have certainly helped the 20-year-old blossom.
Having played for a relegation-battling side, he will also have gained invaluable experience of playing under pressure. A tall, strong player, Fosu-Mensah can add physicality to the backline. The starlet has shown some crunching tackles, great reading of the game and calm composure in his run at Selhurst Park. He is capable of serving several positions – he has played as a fullback, center-back as well as a defensive midfielder. Mourinho could save millions and give Fosu-Mensah a bigger role at the Old Trafford this season.
1. Alex Sandro (Juventus, Brazil, 27)
One of the most highly rated left-backs on the planet at the moment, United’s rivals Chelsea were in hot pursuit of Sandro last season, only to be priced out of a move. A potent crosser, Sandro’s excellence lies in his offensive abilities, while he also offers more than defensive service.
He will certainly give United a presence on the left-wing, with his bombing runs down the left. Also a great tackler, Sandro can even make the cutting-edge key passes. He will cost United an arm and a leg, but he could well be worth it. One of Juventus’ stalwarts in their recent success – two Champions League finals in the last 3 years and an unbroken monopoly of the Scudetto.
2. Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur, England, 27)
Yet another long-term target for Man Utd, Rose has had his battles with injuries lately – but seems to have come out on top of them just in time to make England’s World Cup squad. A defender who should be hitting his prime now, Rose formed one of the most fearsome wing-back pairings in recent times with Kyle Walker, powering Spurs to a 3rd place and a 2nd place finish in the 2015/16 and 2016/17 seasons respectively, defying the Betfair Premier League Predictions.
At Spurs, Rose was a winger on the ball and a defender off it. Another reliable crosser, Rose has made his darting runs down the left a sight to behold. The 27-year-old also comes with invaluable Premier League experience, especially at a top level club, so Rose will represent less of a risk than others. He has made no secret of the possibility of him leaving Spurs – and the London club could also be willing to sell provided the price tag is right, much like they did with Walker.
3. Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham, England, 18)
An exciting, if not unproven option, Sessegnon has seen his stock soar rapidly. Still in his teenage years, Sessegnon has become somewhat of a mainstay for Fulham in their promotion bid so far – scoring and assisting a goal each in their playoff semi-final as they turned around a first leg deficit. Able to play both left-back and at left-wing, he has enjoyed stunning success on the wing this season.
Playing primarily on the wing this season, Sessegnon has been Fulham’s top scorer this season with 16 goals. One of the most impressive things about Sessegnon has been his work-rate and tracking back, even while playing out wide. He was even touted as a wildcard pick for England’s World Cup squad. However, Sessegnon represents a risk – having made his name in the Championship, he does not have top level experience just yet. With Fulham having won promotion to the Premier League, United may want to wait to see how he settles into the top flight before going for him.
4. Luke Shaw (Manchester United, England, 22)
To be even labelled a “punt” shows how far things have changed for this former young prodigy. Signed for £30m, Shaw came to Old Trafford with a lot of hype around him – having featured in the PFA Team of the Year at the tender age of 17. Having impressed in flashes, Shaw’s injury issues – a double leg break against PSV Eindhoven in 2015 ruled him out for over a year, amongst several other injuries – and subsequent fitness issues have derailed his career.
Having publically been called out on his fitness troubles by his manager, Shaw is certainly not much of a teacher’s pet. However, in his limited opportunities this season, the Southampton academy graduate has put in decent performances, with fans calling out for Shaw to get a longer rope. There are certainly flashes of the £30m signing still present – only 22 yet, Shaw could still have a future at the Old Trafford. If he could get his fitness in tow, Mourinho might not have to look farther than Carrington for his solution.
RedMancunian Author: Shubham Singh