There is an air of uncertainty around Old Trafford as we enter the final throes of another largely mediocre season, with fervent speculation about Louis van Gaal’s position as manager, the possibility of Jose Mourinho taking the reins during the summer, and a late battle with local rivals Man City and Arsenal for a coveted fourth place finish and Champions League qualification. Whatever happens during the next month, United will need to make wholesale changes in the off-season to strengthen the squad.
The fact that further major additions are still required is testament to van Gaal’s questionable record in the transfer market, having already spent more than £250m on thirteen senior signings. Of those who have arrived, few have flourished, with big money flops such as Angel di Maria being offset slightly by the talents of Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw, who both have the potential to become world-class in their respective positions. Regardless of who is in the Old Trafford dugout in 2016/2017, United will be looking to move on a number of players, with Marouane Fellaini, Sergio Romero and Ashley Young among those who may be cut.
In order to strengthen the side, United must look to add at least five players – a striker, forward, central midfielder, centre back and right back. The emergence of Martial and 18-year-old Marcus Rashford was one of the few bright spots for fans this season, but van Gaal should be looking to add a more talismanic forward and proven goal scorer to the ranks to support the talented young duo. Harry Kane, though only 23, fits the bill as he has performed superbly in the Premier League for the past two seasons, though he is likely to command a near-record fee for his services. There has also been speculation that Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann is currently being targeted for a summer switch by both United and Chelsea.
Central midfield has long been a problem, even during Sir Alex Ferguson’s latter years at the helm, and again United are crying out for an energetic midfielder with vision and passing ability. Toni Kroos was reportedly a target when David Moyes was manager, and it is feasible that either Mourinho or van Gaal could attempt to sign the German. Unfortunately for United, Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan appears to be on his way to Pep Guardiola’s Man City side in the near future. Renato Sanches also remains a target but is unlikely to fill the void entirely, as he is just eighteen years old.
Matteo Darmian has had a mixed debut season despite a strong start, and a new manager could look to add more experienced competition in the full back position. A quality centre back would also be desirable and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane is one of the best options available. The 22-year-old recently insisted that he is happy at the Bernabeu but has been linked with clubs in England, including United and Arsenal.
The arrival of a new manager could provide a boost to the current squad but the spectre of a season without Champions League football is likely to lead to much-needed strengthening if United are to get back to their title-challenging tradition next year.