The January transfer window is almost upon us and it is a fast-paced environment where clubs have limited time to bolster their squads.
With the teams having played 15 or 16 games so far, any successful transfer in January is going to bring benefits for much more than half the season. Given Manchester United had a slow start to the campaign, they are one of the teams that stands to benefit from that.
Erik ten Hag’s side started off with two poor defeats against Brighton and Brentford. Since then, the only other defeats have come against Aston Villa and Manchester City. They sit fifth in the table and are looking a very good bet to snatch a top-four place if their current form continues. United will overtake Spurs if they win their game in hand.
That being said, there are limitations in the squad and areas that need addressing, so here is a look at three of them.
This is the obvious position that the club are working on and the coach himself has also answered questions on the topic, stating to Sky Sports: “We are aware we lost a striker, so I think we have to get a striker in but it has to be the right one. The right one will bring quality to the team and not just an add to the squad because that gives you only problems.”
The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo means Anthony Martial is the only recognised striker in the squad, with Marcus Rashford also capable of playing through the middle. It is known that he prefers to play on the left, though, and is certainly more effective from there.
January is a very tough time to buy a striker as teams never want to lose a source of goals and end up charging a serious premium. It may need to be a plaster move in January while the planning takes place to sign a long-term target in the summer.
The most heavily linked name is Memphis Depay, who is keen to leave Barcelona and would relish the chance to prove himself at United after failing to do so the first time. He is not a conventional striker, but he may be the most logical option.
If United want to aim higher, they could test Benfica’s resolve and go in for Goncalo Ramos mid-season off the back of his World Cup performances. United were linked with him in the past. Another ambitious idea is the sign Dusan Vlahovic from Juventus, while Joao Felix is another less conventional option from Atletico Madrid.
Until the recent resurgence in form from Aaron Wan-Bisakka, this looked like more of a serious issue for United to address. Diogo Dalot has stepped up this season but there is still scope for United to make a high-profile full-back signing to really lock that position down.
Dalot has impressed and clearly suits the style of play Ten Hag is trying to implement at Old Trafford, but he can be found lacking in certain situations. Wan-Bisakka has stepped up in his absence in the past two matches and impressed, but he is unlikely to ever make that position his own while Ten Hag is coach.
Signing a player like Inter’s Denzel Dumfries would be a statement and it may not be the most expensive deal to do, but he is not definitely a serious upgrade on Dalot on his current form. Another option to explore would be Bayer Leverkusen’s 21-year-old full-back Jeremie Frimpong. He could provide some serious competition for Dalot’s place and AWB may well leave the club in January.
United have now got a very strong midfield, but it would not be a bad thing to sign a young player who can provide some creative cover from deep when Christian Eriksen is in need of a rest or picks up an injury.
That is the role Donny van de Beek should be able to fill, but there is a feeling that if it hasn’t happened yet for the Dutchman, it’s not going to. If he leaves in January, United may be persuaded to sign a creative youngster that can enjoy a healthy amount of minutes from the bench and in any remaining cup games.
A player that is very much in vogue after the World Cup is Azzadine Ounahi. The 22-year-old Moroccan midfielder who plays for Angers is attracting a lot of attention after his superb performances and he could be the kind of player United want to add to the squad. This is likely an area to be addressed in the summer though.