With the Premier League season wrapped up for the summer and no big tournaments to speak of this summer (other than perhaps the Copa America) all football fans will be watching the transfer market with keen interest. This summer in particular will be an interesting one for Manchester United fans like myself. It is already a foregone conclusion that Sir Alex will be spending big on players this term, and plenty of big names are being linked with Old Trafford.
But just where and for whom should United be spending their cash? I will try and answer that for all of you by going through and analyzing the Red Devils’ squad.
Goalkeeper (Need – High):
With the departure of Edwin Van Der Sar, there is a void in United’s goal that desperately needs to be filled. Fergie brought in Danish keeper Anders Lindegaard during the January transfer window, but although the young Dane performed satisfactorily in the few matches we’ve seen him play in a United shirt, a more experienced keeper from a more reputable league is needed. Atletico Madrid’s David de Gea will most likely be that keeper. A deal between De Gea and United is rumored to be all but done, and the official announcement is set to be made in July when the transfer window officially opens. Barring any shock developments, De Gea will be United’s #1 in the coming season.
Defense (Need – Low):
It’s safe to say that United’s back four is the best in the Premier League, and arguably in the world. Nemanja Vidic, United’s captain and centerback, won Player of the Year honors for the past season and rightly so. Patrice Evra is a stalwart at the left back position and provides a great threat when United are on attack, playing almost as a winger. At right back, the ever-improving Da Silva twins’ only true competition is each other. With their strength and speed, they are tough to beat in one-on-one situations, and they both provide decent crosses from the touch line. That leaves us with Rio Ferdinand. When 100% match-fit, Rio is easily one of the best in the world at his position. The problem, however, is that he’s not always match-fit, with back problems limiting him at times. He’s strung together a good number of games this season, though, and looks to have at least a couple more years playing at his high level. With youngsters Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans both available on the bench in case Ferdinand has more injury problems — as well as new signing Phil Jones on hand, United have no need to sign any new defenders this summer.
Midfield (Need – High):
Here is where most of the cash will be splashed this summer. Rumors have been swirling about all sorts of top players being linked with moves to Old Trafford. Perhaps the least of their problems in midfield is at the right wing position, where both Nani and Antonio Valencia can perform excellently. The heart of the midfield, however, is where United’s needs are highest. With the departure of legend Paul Scholes, Darren Fletcher, Anderson and Michael Carrick are currently United’s only three viable options at center-mid. Although neither Fletcher nor Carrick’s talent can be doubted, Fletcher is more useful as a defensive-minded midfielder while Carrick’s United career is riddled with inconsistency.
United need a creative midfielder who can control the flow of the game with his skills both on and off the ball. Wesley Sneijder and Luka Modric are the two players most often linked with Old Trafford. Both players have proven to be highly skilled at the center-mid position and either would be welcomed by the Old Trafford faithful. Both also will come with hefty price tags, and we should expect the bulk of our money to be allocated towards a center-midfielder this summer.
Finally, left wing is also a position that Sir Alex may want to look at this summer. United’s one true left winger is Ryan Giggs, the best in the business in his prime and still an excellent player in his age, but we’ll have to face the fact that Giggsy will be retiring within the next couple of seasons, and his speed is not what is used to be. Although Nani, Valencia and sometimes even Ji Sung Park can fill in at left wing, it is not their natural positions. A true left winger with pace and crossing ability is something that United could definitely use. Aston Villa’s Ashley Young seems to be this left winger. The England international boasts terrific speed and dead ball ability, and is able to cut in from the left wing and attack the opponent’s defense on his stronger right foot (similar to Franck Ribery). Young has been linked with both United and Liverpool, but Old Trafford is looking like it will be the 25 year-old.
Forwards (Need – Medium):
United’s attacking lineup may or may not need some complementary players this summer. Their 3 main options at forward are as follows: Dimitar Berbatov (last season’s leading goal-scorer in the Premier League), Javier Hernandez (surely the most sensational transfer in United’s recent history, netting 20 goals in all competitions in his first season) and Wayne Rooney (no introduction needed.)
Generally, Rooney and Hernandez start the game and Berbatov usually makes an appearance midway through the second half. The problem with this scheme is that a player like Berbatov, who is arguably the most technically gifted player on the squad, is not happy being resigned to a bench role (a complaint recently brought to light during the Champions’ League final.) In my humble opinion, Berbatov has all the right to complain, considering his goals carried United for a fair bit of the season. If Berbatov were to leave United this summer (and it’s anyone’s guess right now whether or not that will happen) it would leave United with only one viable striking option on the bench: Michael Owen, who is unfortunately well past his prime and can’t truly be relied upon as a week-in and week-out substitute.
Regardless of whether Berbatov leaves or not, United should bring back both Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda from loan and perhaps sign another young, inexpensive striker. The priority, however, has to be the midfield.