Manchester United are stuck in transition mode but have at least made steps to move toward a new era.
Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s INEOS group have purchased a 25% stake in the club and will assume control of footballing operations. Fans are hoping that will see Man Utd get back on track, perhaps with some backing in the transfer window.
The Red Devils have dropped down to eighth in the table, just three points above the bottom half, having lost nine of their 20 Premier League games. They have the worst goal difference in the top half, at -5, and look a team void of identity.
Some have called for Erik ten Hag to be sacked, but Man Utd seem intent on sticking with the Dutchman, so now it’s about backing him. The question is, what and who do they need?
Dream: Jean-Clair Todibo
There are a few positions in which Man Utd need to strengthen, but a defensive shakeup seems to be the main priority right now. Victor Lindelof has seen a one-year clause in his contract triggered, with reports claiming Jonny Evans will also be offered an extension. At the same time, Raphael Varane appears to be on his way out with no extension planned and just six months left on his contract.
So, a centre-back? Jean-Clair Todibo is the name on a lot of people’s lips this window, a target for Man Utd as well as Tottenham and Chelsea.
“I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t have the thought to tell myself that perhaps I should play in a ‘top club’ to increase my chances [of playing for France],” Todibo told L’Equipe when asked about United’s attempt to sign him last summer. “But there are also guarantees when playing at Nice.
“I experienced it differently from my previous situations in my career. My thinking was much more in-depth, thoughtful. I didn’t want to make a mistake in my choice. I remained very calm.
“Reflection is much more important than when I started. I’m waiting to be presented with the complete project.”
According to reports, Tottenham have made an approach and were in talks with Todibo and his representatives, though Nice don’t want to sell.
There is now, of course, a Man Utd connection: Ratcliffe owns Nice.
Todibo has made 27 tackles in Ligue 1 so far this season, as well as 1,126 completed passes, the fourth-most among centre-backs, with an accuracy of 90.66%. He has also won possession 55 times in the middle third, again the fourth-most among centre-backs in Ligue 1 this season.
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Realistic: Timo Werner
The other key area Man Utd need to focus on is a striker, or at least someone to provide attacking support for Rasmus Hojlund. The Dane has struggled in the Premier League this season, netting just one goal in 15 appearances, as opposed to five in six Champions League matches.
Without Hojlund leading the line, Man Utd looked toothless in their defeat to Nottingham Forest, only padding their shooting numbers in the dying stages as they chased the game. Hojlund doesn’t need replacing, just help, and Timo Werner could be one for that.
According to some reports, Man Utd will be restricted to loan moves this winter as Sir Ratcliffe, which RB Leipzig would accept for Werner. The German has struggled for playing time at RB Leipzig this season, due to injuries and a lack of form, never really looking the player that left for Chelsea in 2020.
Werner is reportedly one of a four-man shortlist for Man Utd as they look for short-term fixes to their attacking problems. However, RB Leipzig would only be open for a move if they could guarantee Werner gets playing time.
Wildcard: Karim Benzema
This is our wildcard option, but for one former Man United striker it’s a dream option.
“Look at Karim Benzema, maybe not the quickest and strongest, but he’s very clever inside the box,” Louis Saha told bettingodds.com.
“The type of runs he makes need to be studied in a way. If you’re like Mbappe who is very quick he will get the ball early because he has that early advantage, Hojlund is not that quick he’s a big lad so he needs the mentality where he looks for links between his midfielders and wingers.
“When you look at players like (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic, (Robin) van Persie and (Ruud) van Nistelrooy they will go to their wingers and say if they do that, they’re not going to play, the striker should be the one scoring goals. It’s very hard to ask that of Hojlund, but that’s what he needs to do otherwise it will take him another year to adapt.”
Despite scoring nine goals in his first 15 league games for Al-Ittihad after joining from Real Madrid, reports are surfacing of Benzema being unhappy at the Saudi club. So, what about a move to Man Utd?
Hojlund has had 19 shots in the Premier League this season with just eight hitting the target, averaging 1.65 and 0.7 per 90 minutes respectively. He has also missed nine Big Chances while completing just 126 passes.
“Of course, he will shake up the United frontline and that’s what they need,” Saha added.
“He will definitely score goals and he will link up the play a lot better. It’s just a dream, but Karim is still a very professional guy, he’s the type of striker that Hojlund will learn from, but that’s just a fantasy.”