With the Premier League season now over, 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 (which they could yet win), 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 three key positions: defensive midfield, right-wing 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 another year at least.
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.
Right-wing: Jadon Sancho
Manchester United should have signed Jadon Sancho last summer but haggled over the price. They somewhat got away with that in 2020/21 but it’s unlikely they would be able to do so for a second-straight year. They simply must get their man this time. No question about that.
Sancho is a genius. A dribbling, creative winger who can score goals, carry his side up the field and is clutch as hell. A young Englishman who knows a great deal of the United squad from the international scene, he’s already great friends with Marcus Rashford, and would be a hand-in-glove fit with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s club culture.
Jadon Sancho for Borussia Dortmund in the 2020-21 Bundesliga season:
◉ Most take-ons completed (77)
◉ Most chances created (67)
◉ Most assists (11)
Where will he be next season? pic.twitter.com/bAvdVbtzwL
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 22, 2021
A born winner with the confidence at 17 to back himself moving to a new country, and then turning that move into a world-class career in just four years, Sancho is made of the right stuff and he plays in the right style. Sancho, Rashford and Fernandes behind either Greenwood or Cavani is absolute magic in red and United have to make it happen. They are the favourites too, with Sky Bet offering odds of 5/6 for Sancho to join United before September 3, 2021. It’s about time for this dream to come true!
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 4/1 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. The only problem is that 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.
🏴 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 3/1, but it’s always worth dreaming.
It seems certain that Jadon Sancho will leave Borussia Dortmund this summer but the destination may not be Manchester United. A world-class talent, Sancho is coveted by many across the continent and should United drag their feet (as they have done in the past) then smoother operators in the market (like Liverpool) could sweep in and secure the winger, leaving United needing to look elsewhere.
Raphinha has had an incredible breakout season with Leeds. The 24-year-old Brazilian has settled well into the Premier League and has been a dynamic presence up and down the right-flank in Marcelo Bielsa’s demanding system. He is a dynamic dribbler (56 take-ons completed) who creates chances for team-mates (64 chances created, 41 from open play).
Raphinha’s debut Premier League season by numbers:
213 penalty area entries
64 chances created
24 shots on target
12 big chances created
What a signing. ✍️ pic.twitter.com/rw5E2IcayL
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 23, 2021
Raphinha is the ideal age for a big move like this, moreover he is already friends with Bruno Fernandes having played with him at Sporting. It’s not as sexy as the Sancho deal, but it could be plenty effective. However, as things stand a move looks unlikely with United 8/1 to sign him this summer.
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 (12/1). 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 genius 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: 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 10/1 to sign him.
Right-wing: Emi Buendia
Look, at some point someone is going to have to realise that Emi Buendia is legit, right? Well perhaps that moment has already come as Lionel Scaloni has called him up for Argentina’s Copa America squad, but still he remains bizarrely underrated despite posting numbers for Norwich that would make your head spin.
And if Jadon Sancho is unobtainable, and Leeds don’t want to play ball, then Manchester United could do a lot worse than looking at Buendia to fill their right-wing hole, though Sky Bet have odds of 16/1 for that move to happen. The Argentine would offer serious creativity – since the start of last season the only Premier League player to play over 1,000 minutes and create more chances per-90 minutes than Buendia’s 3.03 is Kevin De Bruyne’s 4.05.
Emiliano Buendia in the 2020-21 Championship season:
☉ Most final-third passes completed (735)
☉ Most chances created (122)
☉ Most big chances created (18)
☉ Most assists (16)
☉ Highest expected assists (12.06)
Playmaker supreme. 🎨 pic.twitter.com/sT8WCGOsSw
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 8, 2021
But this has to be a wildcard because everyone seems to pretend that Buendia just isn’t all that and a bag of crisps. He should have been signed up the second Norwich’s relegation was confirmed, but here we are.
Defensive midfield: Andre-Frank Zambo-Anguissa
If United fail to get Bissouma, then the next best option might be Zambo-Anguissa. The Cameroon international just got relegated with Fulham but no one can doubt his talent. He is the only player in the Premier League to post more than 75 tackles and take-ons. He is absurdly dynamic and would add a ridiculous level of energy and skill to the United midfield.
This is a wildcard move, however, because Zambo-Anguissa is not a true holding midfielder and would be more of an incredible upgrade over Fred, which isn’t really what United need but would certainly be possible and given Fulham’s relegation, reasonably priced.
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.