It has to be said… the 2011/12 season for Manchester United fans has been nothing short of a disappointment.
The season that started out with emphatic and wondrous victories against the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Bolton Wanderers quickly turned into one with shocking and humiliating losses to the likes of Manchester City, Athletic Bilbao and Crystal Palace.
Worse yet, the Premier League title, which a few weeks ago was heading towards the Theatre of Dreams, could be all but lost if United’s ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City win their match Sunday against Queens Park Rangers.
Needless to say, a major overhaul is required at Old Trafford to avoid another unsatisfactory campaign. This includes major deals in the summer to bring in high profile players. But this conjures up numerous questions such as:
- What are the positions where United have struggled this season?
- Who are the players that could be easily available in the transfer market?
- Is it necessary to spend heavily this summer to create a new world-class Manchester United team?
In this article, I’m going to answer all the above mentioned questions and to take a look at the players the club should buy before the 2012/13 season starts:
United’s midfield is a big problem that needs to be resolved soon.
Time and again this season, we’ve seen Manchester United’s midfield lacking creativity and incisiveness. The Scholes-Carrick partnership may have made the midfield more structured and organised but the flair and spark is still lacking. In addition, Scholes finds himself on the wrong side of the thirties and a replacement for the 37-year-old needs to be found soon.
Anderson and Cleverley, meanwhile, spend more time on the treatment table rather than on the football pitch. Fletcher is suffering from a chronic illness and it is uncertain if he’ll be back to the Darren Fletcher of old upon his return. Giggs, like Scholes, is not getting any younger and Paul Pogba’s future at Manchester United looks uncertain. Park, after his abysmal performance against City, is more or less likely to leave the club at the end of the season.
Thus, Manchester United are left with only one player who could be trusted for the future: Michael Carrick. The Red Devils will need to buy at least two midfielders in the summer to compete with the likes of Manchester City, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid on the European fronts.
The first should be an attacking midfielder, who can add the lacking flair and creativity to the team and the second, a deep lying playmaker who can provide the midfield with more stability and strength and protect the back four.
For the attacking midfielder role Nicolas Gaitan looks like the most attainable and suitable avenue. According to several media outlets, the deal to bring in the 24-year-old from Benfica for 20.6 million pounds is nearing completion. As part of the deal, Fabio is to go on a season long loan to the Portuguese side whereas Federico Macheda will be exchanged on a permanent basis. The deal may seem a little escalated in terms of what Manchester United are paying but one has to also consider the fact that the transfer market has become quite inflated these days because of clubs like Manchester City and Real Madrid, who pay absurd amounts to bring in new talents to the club.
Nonetheless, Gaitan’s arrival will add more attacking options to United’s midfield and the Argentine could be the one to add the ‘lacking creativity and flair to the midfield.’
Other players linked with a move to the Red side of Manchester include Luka Modric, Clint Dempsey and Christian Eriksen. However, Modric’s exorbitant price tag, Dempsey’s age and Eriksen’s desire to stay at Ajax, make the three unrealistic and incongruous targets for United.
For the deep lying playmaker role, Javi Martinez is the best possible option. The Spaniard is in the midst of a stellar season with Athletic Bilbao and has been heavily linked with a move to the Red Devils. Martinez’s ability to break up the opposition’s play, balance the midfield and start attacks from the deep could be make him an invaluable asset to Alex Ferguson’s squad. However, Athletic Bilbao are quite reluctant to sell Martinez in the summer; meaning the Red Devils would have to pay the prized midfielder’s mammoth 34-million-pounds buyout clause to lure him away from the Basque club.
2. Left Back
It is almost certain that Manchester United will sign a left back this summer.
Stand-in captain Patrice Evra has been substandard this season. Yes, he may make some interesting forward runs at times, or may combine well with the likes of Nani and Young on the left wing; but his defending has been lacklustre and lifeless. The Frenchman has lost a yard of pace, gives away the ball too easily and at times, commits some untimed and clumsy fouls on the opposition players.
Fabio is set to go off on loan to another European club the next season and Fryers is too inexperienced to become United’s prime choice at the left back position.
Everton’s Leighton Baines is the latest left back to have been linked with a move to the Red Devils. The 27 year old is in the prime of his career and his performances this season have earned him a name in PFA’s Premier League Team of the Year. The England international will provide United’s left flank with more defensive stability and attacking prowess. What adds to this is that he is also an excellent free kick-taker. Furthermore, his five million pounds price tag makes him an ideal candidate to be Patrive Evra’s successor at Old Trafford.
A younger alternative could be Ajax’s 20-year-old wing back Nicolai Boilesen, who has been one of Ajax’s most impressive players this term. However, Boilesen’s arrival could stunt Fryers’ and Fabio’s development as then, in the coming season, the three would have to fight for one position which could consequently result in the latter two leaving Old Trafford to seek more first team opportunities elsewhere.
Alex Ferguson has already announced that Dimitar Berbatov is going to leave the club this summer. Michael Owen is well past his prime and one cannot understand the reason why he’s still at the club. Federico Macheda, barring that winner against Aston Villa in 2009, hasn’t exactly done anything to be worthy of wearing the United jersey. Hence, even though Manchester United have arguably one of the best attacking partnerships in the Premier League, they’ll be lacking the depth required to compete on four fronts in the next campaign.
Hence, they’ll need to add another striker on the roster so that the likes of Welbeck and Hernandez could get sufficient amount of rest and not suffer from fatigue in the later part of the campaign.
Several prolific strikers will be available in the transfer market this summer. One of them is the highly sought after Dutch striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar. The former Los Blancos start is a poacher in-front of the goal and has netted 44 times for Schalke this season in just 46 appearances. There is no reason why Alex Ferguson shouldn’t bid for Huntelaar- The latter is fine in the air, a strong finisher, knows how to keep the ball and link-up with teammates and most importantly, is a cheaper and more experienced option than other Red Devils targets like Fernando Llorente, Iker Munian and Edinson Cavani.
If United are to buy Huntelaar, the 28-year-old’s partnership with Rooney could be even more predominant and formidable than the current Manchester United attacking partnership of Rooney and Welbeck.
The first thing that comes to a Manchester United fan’s mind when he thinks of the summer is the possibility that his club is going to spend heavily in the transfer window and recruit some world-class players.
The summer is without doubt going to be a busy one for the Red Devils and if the above mentioned players join the club, it could again become a force to reckon with in Europe.