Who should Manchester United prioritise signing in the Summer Window?

Manchester United have a big summer ahead of them. There will be at least five departures with Mata, Lingard, Pogba, Cavani and Matic already leaving the club. Ten Hag will also make some big calls with other players leaving which will require replacements in multiple areas. There are inconsistent rumours about how much Ten Hag will have to spend on his squad but the United board tend to spend more when the team fail to qualify for the Champions League. However this is likely to increase with more departures guaranteed.

Rangnick has said that with a good window this summer, United would not be far off challenging and perhaps another window to truly compete against the best. But United have to be diligent and all the signs in the last few weeks demonstrate that they will be. But what remains, is what positions should be prioritised and who should fit into them. Here’s our take on this huge summer ahead:

Manchester United’s prioritised this summer:

1. A Defensive Midfielder

It has been apparent for some time that Manchester United need a defensive midfielder. Scott McTominay and Fred have done a more than thankless job as acting like defensive midfielders when they really are better further up the pitch (in different roles albeit) but do what’s required for the team when called upon. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer asked for a defensive midfielder for two summers running and requested Rice, Tchouameni, Camavinga or Neves during that time but received no one. Now United have no choice but to bring one to the club. The question is, who?

Aurelien Tchouameni

The boy is a star and has been a stalwart for Monaco this season. He has been part of both a midfield pivot and the main defensive midfielder in a three. A young talent who is already an established French international and has been pivotal for Monaco’s bid for Champions League football. He is an excellent passer of the ball, a superb tackler, an effective presser and also chips in with a goal every now and then. At 22, he has so much potential and is already a great player. For £50m, he would be a steal.

Declan Rice

Probably the best option out there for Manchester United. Declan Rice’s development in the last few years has been outstanding to watch. He has become a brilliant midfielder who can sit and dictate but also has the drive and change of pace to drive forwards and make things happen. He would improve almost every midfield in world football and, at the age of 23, has still got heights to reach. The problem with Rice is, West Ham want £150m. And while Rice is a brilliant player, he simply isn’t worth that kind of money. Unless West Ham lower their asking fee, it’s a no from me.

Boubacar Kamara

Another Ligue Un player but one that is set to leave on a free. United have been monitoring him since January but aren’t the only ones. Kamara has been very important for Marseille. He is an excellent passer and is the focal point of the midfield play. He is also a solid tackler and one of the most efficient pressing midfielders out there. For a free transfer, it would be a no-brainer.

DECISION:

I would go for Rice this summer if his price tag was even half what it currently is. Tchouameni would be the best option when factoring ability and price tag but of course is heavily linked with Liverpool and Real Madrid who both have Champions League football and already world-class squads. If Tchouameni is swayed by the Champions League finalists then Boubacar Kamara is an excellent option and for next to nothing. But the priority should be Aurelien Tchouameni. If Manchester United believe that they need two holding midfielders, then Kamara and Tchouameni would be excellent for the squad.

Aurelien Tchouameni provides answer to Manchester United's Paul Pogba conundrum - Omar Garrick - Manchester Evening News

2. At least one goalkeeper

It is genuinely scary how many fans cannot see the limitations in David de Gea as a goalkeeper. De Gea makes a lot of saves and makes some superb stops but that’s all of his game. There’s so much more to goalkeeping than just shot stopping and that’s excluding the modern requirements of goalkeepers. David de Gea does not come for crosses, he does not consistently perform defensive actions out of his box and is a poor distributor. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. It just takes some people more time to realise.

Ten Hag demands a modern approach from his goalkeepers and as does his potential coaching staff. The facts are that David de Gea simply isn’t a modern keeper and is unlikely to change at this point in his career. Manchester United have an already primed goalkeeper waiting in the wings and one that could and should (in my opinion) take over the starting goalkeeper role.

David de Gea or Dean Henderson to leave this summer - The Busby Babe

Even if you don’t believe Manchester United can rely on Henderson as the first choice goalkeeper, Manchester United still have to sign at least one this summer and perhaps another if Henderson chooses to leave too. Here are my thoughts on who could join this summer:

Nick Pope

Nick Pope is a top goalkeeper at a club struggling to stay in the Premier League and the reason they are still in the fight is due to Pope’s efforts this season. Pope is a great shot stopper and his big frame helps him to save one-on-ones and his one of the best at claiming crosses and for performing sweeper actions outside of the box. Some problems with Pope would be that he is used to kicking the ball long and so may not be as comfortable with his feet and also the fact he is 30 means he is not a long term solution. If he is to rotate with Henderson but remain second choice, he may be an option and should Burnley go down, Pope would be available on the cheap.

Mike Maignan

Maignan has been nothing short of sensational for AC Milan. He has one of the best save percentages around and has barely conceded this season. He is a confident goalkeeper who is comfortable with his feet and an effective cross claimer. Maignan is 26 and so would only likely be signed to become the number 1 should both goalkeepers leave and would take some convincing to join the project with AC Milan top of Serie A and in the UCL next season. Milan may ask for a heft fee as well and so this option, while excellent, is unlikely and expensive.

Manuel Riemann

Riemann's reflexes and a premiere for promoted Bochum - Sports of the Day

Bochum survived their promotion season and they have received many plaudits for it. But one that has gone under the radar is 33 year old Manuel Riemann. If you want the definition of a modern goalkeeper, it’s Riemann. He is so very comfortable on the ball, sprays passes fantastically, is a true sweeper keeper and picks crosses out of the air with ease. He is also a solid shot stopper who faces a lot of action regularly for Bochum. Of course he would not be a long term solution and so would be a good option to play and rotate with Henderson and would have experience to offer United’s young keepers.

DECISION:

I would personally like to see Dean Henderson be given a chance next season. COVID and injuries denied him this chance early on and when the results started to go wrong but de Gea was making the saves it was hard for either Ole or Rangnick to take the Spaniard out of goal. But with a clean slate under Ten Hag, Henderson can shine and establish himself.

What I can see happening after that is one of two things. David de Gea’s wages price him out of a move away and he is kept for the cup games, or the reports that Barcelona want him allow United to forge a move for Frenkie de Jong (discussed later on) and United then move for a back up. I could see United go for either Pope or Riemann but I think Manuel Riemann would be more willing to be second choice than Pope who is gunning for an England role just like Henderson.

3. A Top Striker

Manchester United desperately need a new striker this summer. With Cavani leaving, Ronaldo is the only striker currently at the club not definitely leaving. United do have Anthony Martial but it is whether he can reignite his career that has stagnated for two straight seasons. Either way, United need a striker that can press, link up play and most importantly, bag the goals needed for a top club. Ronaldo may have 24 goals at 37 but he has never been able to press and won’t start now. United have struggled to adapt to Ronaldo’s style of play and so both he and United need reinforcements to help this system work.

Darwin Nunez

One of the hottest prospects in football right now. Nunez has been banging in the goals for Benfica this season and is being monitored by United, Arsenal and Spurs. Nunez is a strong, bullish striker who has still got plenty to learn and develop in his game. He is lethal when given an opportunity and has had to make them for himself many times with driving runs and runs into the box. He is able to work in a fluid front three which would perfectly suit the wingers United have in Rashford, Sancho and Elanga. For £70m, he would be an excellent signing for now and for the future.

Harry Kane

A long term target since the 2014/15 season, Kane may finally get his move away this summer should Spurs fail to qualify for the Champions League and Conte forces an exit. Kane won’t now move to City with Haaland ready to follow his father’s footsteps. United would have almost a free shot at the England captain and no one can blame them if they go for him. He is undoubtedly a world class striker and one that would and has got 20+ goals for the last eight seasons running. United may be able to negotiate a cut price for Kane with his contract expiring in the next 12 months.

Harry Kane net worth 2022: How much does Kane make per year? | Marca

Lautaro Martinez

Another top striker that looks to be on the move this summer. Once again, it seems Inter have to make some transfers for financial reasons and why not cash in on a top striker. Martinez has been excellent for Inter and was pivotal in their title win last season with Lukaku alongside him. This season he has partnered with Dzeko and bagged 20 goals in 41 games (Serie A and UCL). He is a great pressing striker and his work rate is impressive. However he does not pass often and when he does it rarely creates a chance. His contract expires in 2026 and is still an integral part of the Inter side. I doubt he will go for anything lower than £80m and so getting Martinez will be just as hard as any of the other forwards mentioned.

DECISION:

All three strikers would be sensational signings at Manchester United. Kane would change the way United play entirely but would be one that fits within Ten Hag’s philosophy, especially when Tadic was playing as a false-9 before Haller’s move to Ajax. I feel Martinez would cost far too much for his worth and would be far more expensive than the other two options. So for me it is between Nunez and Kane.

Kane is clearly the finished article and already has adapted to the Premier League. United need to make a statement of intent after City have signed Haaland. Kane would be a big one and then some. However, I don’t see Kane moving for anything less than Nunez’s fee and Nunez has many more years for United than Kane would.

He is versatile and would fit a fluid front three. He also has plenty to learn from Ronaldo who will be eager to compete with the Uruguayan goal machine so for me, Nunez is the best choice. (Plus I have a sneaky feeling Bayern may come for Kane to replace Lewandowski).

Darwin Núñez goal for Benfica's 1-2 vs Liverpool for the Champions League - Infobae

4. Pogba’s Replacement following his summer exit

Juventus 'to hold talks with Paul Pogba next week' as they step up plans to re-sign the French star | Daily Mail Online

With Paul Pogba set to leave the club this summer for the second time on a free transfer, United have to replace a player of that talent and quality. They not only have to replace his ability but actually buy a player suited to Ten Hag’s football and the workrate of the Premier League. There are some players who can replace Pogba but not many.

Frenkie de Jong

A former pupil of our new manager. Frenkie de Jong has established himself as one of the best central midfielders in the world in the last few seasons. He is a phenomenal passer and drives forward to create chances. For United, he could control the midfield and allow Bruno and the other forwards move higher and into more dangerous areas. Barcelona are looking to sell Frenkie this summer for £60m and for a player of his calibre, that is a great offer. However there are questions of his willingness to join United. That will be the determining factor for the Dutchman joining the club.

Youri Tielemans

A player United should have bought the moment they faced Tielemans when he was at Anderlecht. He is an excellent footballer that oozes class. A great passer, excellent in both boxes and can dictate play. He is a better tackler than De Jong and Pogba but not quite as good a passer. But for a reported £25m, he is a great option.

Jude Bellingham

Probably England’s biggest talent at the moment. Bellingham is a shining star of the youth talent in England. To think Ole wanted him to join last January but the board deemed his request to play regularly too much to bother buying him. He is now valued above £100m but is coveted by the world’s best. A true box to box, he adds goals, assists, a phenomenal work-rate and is excellent under pressure. At 18, the world is at his feet but whether United will spend over £100m on a player this summer is up in the air. I don’t expect United to go for him but if they did, he would drastically improve their midfield.

Erik ten Hag has already identified how Man Utd will "get best out of" Frenkie de Jong - Mirror Online
DECISION:

I would personally like to see Frenkie de Jong at United this summer. He would be an excellent addition and slide straight into the starting XI. However, if he does not want join for whatever reason, then Bellingham would be too expensive for this summer. Instead, United should go for a cheaper option in Tielemans who knows the league inside out and would be a big hit.

5. Fullback depth must improve this summer

This, in my opinion is more important than a centre back because when our first choice defenders in Shaw and Wan-Bissaka were out, United looked totally incapable of defending. Some of the mistakes made by Telles and Dalot were amateur level errors. It was and still is embarrassing. While I can see possibly improving, I expect both to be on the way out. Telles isn’t good enough and would be better off in a less demanding league and Dalot is wanted by Jose Mourinho at Roma. I can see United listening to offers to both and definitely letting them leave.

For that to happen, United need fullbacks that will not only be able to fit in when Shaw and Wan-Bissaka are out but push them. Both Shaw and AWB, while impressive at what they do, have weaknesses that need complimenting in the squad. This means, United would be best looking young fullbacks with the hunger and drive to push Shaw and Wan-Bissaka and test their position in the squad.

Diogo Dalot and Alex Telles set pathway for squad players to prove themselves - The Busby Babe

Right Back:

Middlesbrough's Djed Spence wanted by seven Premier League clubs? - Sports Mole

There are many young talented right backs about but with the money United have to spend in midfield and up front, it would be hard to spend big on a fullback too. If they had the budget, players like Tariq Lamptey or Achraf Hakimi would be excellent additions. However, Ten Hag is unlikely to have that luxury. If United want a good, young right back for a small fee, Djed Spence seems perfect for the club. A direct and aggressive attacking fullback, Spence has been excellent for Forest this season. He has a lot to learn and develop but the talent and ability is there for sure. He could be the more direct of the right backs and still have the defensive awareness and aggression to compete with the pace and aggression of the Premier League. For £20m, it seems a good deal.

Left Back:

The left back market contains very few viable options. Nico Tagliafico could follow Ten Hag but I doubt he will want to be the second choice. Tyrick Mitchell would be the best option but would be another £50m to Palace but this time for a second choice fullback. I would personally think Brandon Williams is ready to return to United. He has impressed in a dismal overall season for Norwich and is ready to push Luke Shaw for a starting role.

Brandon Williams: Manchester United defender fined for failing to give information to police about speeding offence | Football News | Sky Sports

6. A Centre Back for the Squad

I expect at least two centre backs to be sold. Most likely to be Bailly and Jones with Tuanzebe either loaned out again or following suit. Manchester United need a centre back that can come into the squad with ease and give rest to the main centre backs. Maguire cannot play every game and Varane was regularly injured last season. So just three first choice centre backs isn’t enough. One more is required.

Jurrien Timber

A great young prospect who has been one of the better defenders in the Eredivisie this season. Timber could be a long term prospect who is not quite ready to start regularly in the Premier League but can ease his way in. A reported £20m fee would be needed to bring Timber to United but Ajax don’t really want to sell.

Pau Torres

Ole’s first choice over Varane last summer. Torres has been excellent for Villarreal and is now an established Spanish international. A natural left footed centre back and one used to playing out and alongside a slower defender, Torres seems the perfect fit at United. The £50m price tag is a high one for a player that will be part of the squad but if Varane is injured then Torres would slide into the team with ease.

Manuel Akanji

The Swiss international is an impressive defender. He is a great stopper and a great passer of the ball. He would rotate perfectly into the stopper role that Maguire holds while Varane and Lindelof can perform as the sweeper. One thing is that Akanji is not as good in the air and so would mean Maguire is United’s only real aerially dominant centre half. But for a reported £25m, Akanji would be a great purchase.

Manuel Akanji: Who is the Borussia Dortmund and Switzerland defender hailed by Giorgio Chiellini? | Bundesliga
We 'signed' Jurrien Timber for Man United and Erik ten Hag's side improved defensively - Manchester Evening News
DECISION:

I think Jurrien Timber would be the one to choose with everything considered. Ten Hag knows him and rates him enough to play regularly in the title winning team this season. £20m would be a good and affordable deal if Ajax approve it. If not then Akanji is the best and most affordable option for United to take. For a squad player that can go straight into the first team, £25m is a bargain in this current market.

How our squad could look at the end of the Summer Window:

So, with all these things considered, this is how United’s squad could look at the end of the summer window:

Goalkeepers:
Henderson, Riemann, Heaton

Right Backs:
Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Djed Spence, Ethan Laird

Left Backs:
Luke Shaw, Brandon Williams, Alvaro Fernandez

Centre Backs:
Harry Maguire, Raphael Varane, Victor Lindelof, Jurrien Timber

Central Midfielders:
Frenkie de Jong, Fred, Scott McTominay, Aurelien Tchouameni, James Garner

Attacking Midfielders:
Bruno Fernandes, Donny van de Beek, Hannibal Mejbri, Alejandro Garnacho

Wingers:
Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Anthony Elanga, Amad

Strikers:
Cristiano Ronaldo, Darwin Nunez, Anthony Martial

Would this be a squad that can push for trophies on all fronts while finally being able to win the Premier League after 10 years of asking? Can Erik ten Hag turn around the fortunes of United and win some silverware for the first time since 2017? It is too early to answer these questions but for now, all Manchester United need to do, is act diligently in the market to get quality signings for reasonable prices as soon as possible.

Author: Arjun Handa

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