Manchester United are allegedly on the verge of a very busy 2019 in the transfer market.
United have been linked with quite a few players, most of them central defenders, over the last couple months as people have hypothesised that The Red Devils’ answer to their struggles in the league was going to be cold, hard cash.
Well, now that they’re actually playing well under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, many would be forgiven for thinking that the clubs woes are over. But no, the woe is very much still there, it’s just been hidden right now by some fun attacking play.
Ultimately, United still need to sign some players if they want to get back to the level they demand; and they’ve been linked with enough players to do just that.
But how could they line-up if they signed all of these players they were linked with? Or at least some of them? We had a look!
1. The Dream
When you dream, dream big. The Red Devils are desperate for someone to anchor their defence, a titanic monument of a man. Powerful, technically skilled, mentally strong and of the correct disposition to organise and shuttle an entire back-line. There’s no defender (available) that can do this better than Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly. He may cost as much as £90m, but Manchester United must pay it to get him.
With Koulibaly in place, the rest of the defence is actually alright. Sure, United could use a right-back, but haven’t been linked with any to even dream of him. And anyway, Koulibaly stabilising things with a reborn Lindelof should be transformative.
In midfield, you have to actually start playing Fred, the £50m signing at the base of midfield. The Brazilian is a sensational talent who needs to be unleashed, so unleash him! Sure, he’s not 6’3 and hard as nails like Nemanja Matic, but football has evolved beyond having that kind of player at the base of midfield (one could argue the greatest sides of all-time never did).
Ahead of Fred you obviously have Pogba let loose as your creative talent, but next to him? His countryman Tanguy Ndombele. The Frenchman is a tenacious and talented box-to-box midfielder. A relentless shuttle going up and down the field, providing energy and quality to both midfield, attack and defence. He’d cost a lot, but he’s worth a lot.
Then, in attack, to augment the genius of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, you bring in Timo Werner. The German is, like Rashford and Martial, a forward capable of playing in any of the three attacking roles in a 4-3-3. Here, he would start on the right but have the freedom to roam the field, providing another dose of pace, penetration and finishing skill.
Werner would cost around £100m and United would have to get him before Bayern Munich, but they’d be in luck as he likes both The Red Devils and their hated rivals Liverpool, but has said: “When I have to decide, I’m more Manchester United than Liverpool.” Adding: “I’m now at a point where, at some stage in the future, I’d like to play in a team that wins titles.” Well, if he joined this team, he probably would be!
2. The Diamond
Sometimes United need to play to their strengths, or rather, play to avoid their weaknesses. And United don’t really have any wingers so why not play a system without them? You switch things up at the back, with Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic acting as a more budget conscious stalwart centre-back. The Serb would cost around £45m and pairing him with the aggressive and dynamic Eric Bailly could be fun.
You’d place Ander Herrera at the base of the midfield diamond. The Spaniard is a player of great skill and would provide great protection for the defence behind the dynamic duo of Fred and Nicolo Barella. Barella would be the second acquisition from Serie A. The midfielder is a tenacious tackler who can also launch long balls and rocket shots in equal measure.
Pogba would, in this system, be truly unleashed almost as one of the front three. With no defensive work to do and a functioning midfield behind him, he would be free to roam into attack and join up with Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku to pummel opponents with pace, skill and physical power. This would be a fearsome United attack that had it all.
3. The 3-5-2
It doesn’t always have to be a four-man defence, of course. So why not 3-5-2? Of course, United would need more quality centre-backs. So Milenkovic is back, but United would also add the Porto defender Eder Militao. The Brazilian only recently joined the Portuguese side as a right-back, but has since been moved to centre-back and truly impressed. Comparisons have been made to Real Madrid legend Pepe, and given he has a £42.5m release clause there would be little trouble securing his signature.
Then the midfield trio is Fred at the base behind Paul Pogba and Tanguy Ndombele. As in the dream side, this midfield trio has it all and would offer United control and dynamism. Out wide Diogo Dalot and Luke Shaw would be free to flood forward and provide width to a side that needs it. Then Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku yet again lead the line, the perfect combination.
4. The Suggestion
Of course, Manchester United’s major problem is right-back. And they haven’t really been linked with a right-back. So here we’ve come up with an XI where we suggest some players they haven’t been looking at but certainly should be. As with the dream, Koulibaly is the defensive anchor; there is just no better option for Manchester United right now.
Lindelof and Shaw keep their spots, but the right-back this time is Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Who knows what Crystal Palace would charge for their young sensation, but whatever it is, United should pay it. Wan-Bissaka is 21-years-old and is a tackling machine. The youngster is phenomenal in 50/50 duels and could be United’s right-back for a decade.
In midfield, again as in the dream, Fred anchors as the #6 and Pogba is the #10. But the difference here is the player chosen for the #8 – it’s not a dynamic player like Ndombele or Barella, but a considered ball-player: Lyon’s Houssem Aouar. The Frenchman is just 20 years old, but is a stupendous passer of the ball and has already dominated the Manchester City midfield, twice! Aouar would bring serenity to the United midfield and really allow The Red Devils to set the tempo, allowing Paul Pogba to become more of an expressive force in the final third and United’s full-backs to take more risks in attack.
Speaking of attack, in the front three we again have Martial and Rashford, The no. 10 and no. 11 are a dream combination in attack and need to be centred as much as possible. There’s no limit to what United could achieve with them leading the line. But the final change is that there is no star winger brought in to be the third guy; instead, Jesse Lingard is trusted to hold that role. Why? Lingard may not be world-class, but he’s a relentlessly hard-worker whose runs off the ball and selfless movement into space allow the likes of Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford to shine bright. Plus he’s quite useful at popping up with big goals. He’s basically England’s Pedro.