With Euro 2020 almost over and the new Premier League season just over a month away, attention will shift to the summer transfer window and the business to be conducted.
Manchester United had a good season, finishing second in the Premier League and reaching the Europa League final, but they will know that if they want to improve to the point in which they can catch Manchester City in England and genuinely compete in the Champions League, then investment is needed.
Specifically, investment is needed in two key positions: defensive midfield and central defence. There was the issue of signing a striker, but the contract renewal of Edinson Cavani for another year should put that issue on the back burner for now. And while right-wing was a huge position of need, United have finally landed their dream signing in Jadon Sancho.
We have agreed a deal in principle for the transfer of Jadon Sancho to United! ?⚪⚫#MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) July 1, 2021
But what about the other positions? We’ve come up with a list of dream, realistic and wildcard transfer options for Manchester United as they look to shine in summer 2021.
Defensive midfield: Declan Rice
Sometimes a player just fits. Declan Rice probably isn’t the best holding midfield option available to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this summer, certainly given the price that West Ham will likely charge, but he would be an absolute dream fit with the United midfield (the Red Devils are 3/1 to sign him this summer).
A young, British talent full of drive and determination, skill and smarts. Rice would fit into the club culture Solskjaer is building at Old Trafford and would emerge as a true leader in midfield. His talent is not in question here, he has the athleticism and the instincts to be an incredible defensive midfielder for United.
Rio Ferdinand is a fan, saying: “We all knew he was a good player at West Ham but what Declan Rice is doing in the England team right now, for his age, is a madness.” The reason this is a dream are that Chelsea are also interested in signing him and have his childhood friend Mason Mount to sway him their way. Moreover, West Ham are in the Europa League so that price just went up by about £20-30m, and that’s if West Ham would even countenance selling. He’d be a perfect fit, but perfection is often impossible to attain.
??????? Declan Rice
??????? Mason Mount
??????? Phil Foden
??????? Jude Bellingham
Play them all, Gareth. ?pic.twitter.com/pi7DqDjrc8
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) April 6, 2021
Centre-back: Raphael Varane
It should be illegal to be as good as Raphael Varane can be. When fit and focused he’s a Rolls Royce of a centre-back, big, powerful, fast and regal. An incredible defender who has been on top of the world game for years and years with Real Madrid and France.
A key defender as Los Blancos won three straight Champions Leagues and Les Bleus won the 2018 World Cup, Varane has done it all. With his Real Madrid contract a year away from expiry, now may be the perfect time for United to fulfil their long-held desire to sign the Frenchman (which must be born of the regret that they picked Phil Jones over him all the way back in 2011).
He’ll probably renew at Real Madrid, so this remains a dream with odds of 4/6, but it’s always worth dreaming big because if it comes true, as the Sancho dream did, then you’ve landed yourself one hell of a player.
Defensive midfield: Eduardo Camavinga
Manchester United may have focused on young British talent lately but primarily what they want is young talent, immense prospects that have the potential to grow into legends while at the club. And their latest target in that mould is Eduardo Camavinga.
The 18 year-old Frenchman has been a standout for the last two seasons at Rennes in Ligue 1. Despite playing a tricky position at such a young age, he handles himself with impeccable maturity and confidence. He is prolific in the tackle and a fantastic dribbler, making him an ideal presence to negotiate the hurly burly of the Premier League, and given his contract expires in a year he is said to be available for a cut-price €30m. Such a low price for such a great talent? United simply have to move! (They are 1/1 to sign him).
Centre-back: Ben White
If Manchester United’s Raphael Varane dream collapses yet again, they will still need a centre-back and again they should look to Brighton. The side whose Expected Goals conceded on target was the third best in the league at 36.1! Only Manchester City and Chelsea were better!
Ben White is a rock solid centre-back on the deck. He intercepts the ball well and brings it out superbly. Harry Maguire is a big fan and you can see why; White has the skill-set needed to compliment Maguire in a way that perhaps Victor Lindelof does not (Eric Bailly does, obviously, but cannot stay fit). With White and Maguire together, United’s centre-backs would be superb dribblers and thus quite press resistant and White’s tall frame and long stride allows him to eat up ground in a way that Maguire and Lindelof cannot. It’s no surprise he has reportedly been included in England’s provisional squad for Euro 2020, with United 25/1 to sign him.
Defensive midfield: Yves Bissouma
If United are unable to stump up the significant capital it will take to sign Declan Rice then they will have to look elsewhere and they can’t really go wrong with Brighton’s Yves Bissouma (20/1). In terms of a pure defensive wizard to look after the midfield and allow everyone to be more attacking, Bissouma may even be superior to Rice in terms of his sheer defensive dynamism.
The 24-year-old Ivorian dominated on the field with Brighton this season, and was a major part of their incredible defence that conceded just 46 times (seventh best in the league). He posted 100+ tackles and 60+ clearances and interceptions. He’s a defensive wonder and would enable the likes of Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay to truly flourish even when playing in a double pivot.
Yves Bissouma was the only player to make 100+ tackles and 50+ interceptions in the Premier League this season:
◉ 104 tackles
◉ 64 interceptions
He also won 227 duels. ? pic.twitter.com/V4wbQfvksw
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 23, 2021
Centre-back: Sven Botman
United’s centre-back search has taken them to La Liga (Bailly) and the Primeira (Lindelof) but now they should look at Ligue 1 and Sven Botman. The young Dutchman has been an absolute colossus for Lille as they incredibly won Ligue 1 and he has almost everything you could want in a defender.
He’s tall, he’s fast, he’s dominant in the air and on the deck. He’s also quick in a way that Maguire isn’t and is a left-footer so would allow United to play the Englishman on the right and open up more of the field. He’s also been mentored by José Fonte at Lille, just as the Premier League’s previous two defensive colossi (Virgil van Dijk and Ruben Dias) have been.
Literally the only downside to Botman is that he is slow on the turn, just like Maguire. Being a leftie would offset this somewhat, but having him and Maguire could leave United open to fast switches of play and/or truly dynamic dribblers. This move would definitely be a wildcard in every sense, but the potential is huge.