Manchester United have all but signed Aaron Wan-Bissaka from Crystal Palace, their second arrival of the summer.
Wan-Bissaka will cost a colossal £50m plus add-ons, which goes alongside the £15m already spent on Swansea winger Daniel James. With those moves, United have gotten younger, quicker, more talented and more British. It’s a promising start, but it also likely means United are halfway through their transfer business.
In the last few years, United appear to have instituted a policy of signing four players in the summer window. After all the early hype about Ole Gunnar Solskaer being given the license to completely rebuild the United squad, more recent reports point to a more conservative window with, yup, four signings planned.
Obviously, if big names were to leave, say Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku, then they would be replaced. But in terms of planned business, United have four signings lined up and they’ve made two, leaving two more to go. But who are those two? Who should they be? What positions should they play? Well, we have had a look.
United’s most obvious position of need is at centre-back. They have a whole platoon of them at the club right now but none of them are close to being the complete package, save Victor Lindelof, and even he has severe deficiencies in leadership and organisation.
United need a colossus and they instead have a bunch of clowns. Eric Bailly is inexperienced and looks shot of confidence, Chris Smalling is a solid back-up but will never be better than that, Phil Jones gets hurt by a slight breeze and Marcos Rojo is a spectacular disaster.
United have been linked with just about every centre-back you can imagine, from Samuel Umtiti, Raphael Varane, Kalidou Koulibaly, Matthijs de Ligt, Harry Maguire, Joachim Anderson plus many more. Some are obviously more realistic than others but most troublingly, only three of them really display the leadership and organisational capabilities to help fix United’s defence.
Kalidou Koulibaly is the obvious choice here. The Senegalese is one of the top three centre-backs in the world and the fact that he might be available for something in the region of €100-120m is phenomenal. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, he reads the game like a telepath, tackles with supreme rigour and is so committed to defensive organisation that he literally pushes team-mates into position if he has to.
At 27, Koulibaly is in his prime as a defender and, even given the massive cost, would have a transformative effect on the United defence much in the same way Virgil van Dijk did for Liverpool. Samuel Umtiti would be a cheaper alternative but he may have a chronic knee problem and United don’t need another defender who just can’t stay fit.
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Let’s be very clear, Manchester United need a defensive midfielder and a central midfielder. They need two starters to go with Paul Pogba, allowing Scott McTominay, Fred and Andreas Pereira to be their depth. If Pogba leaves, they will need three starters, but they definitely need one in each position because they are so very short in midfield.
The Red Devils have been linked with a whole host of different midfielders. In terms of defensive midfielders, there have been links to English pair Sean Longstaff and Declan Rice. Both are homegrown in the Premier League and while inexperienced, obviously possess the kind of quality United could use and enhance to make them world beaters.
In central midfield, they’ve been linked to so many different players. There are rumours of Saúl, Dani Ceballos, Tanguy Ndombele, James Maddison, even Philippe Coutinho if you can believe that. United definitely need attacking talent, though, so it makes sense.
Maddison would be a supreme signing but only really if (when?) Paul Pogba goes, as he would play a similar role to the Frenchman and it’s hard to see the two co-existing. So the obvious choice here is Dani Ceballos. The 24-year-old Spaniard is an absolutely magical footballer.
Real Madrid want to sell Ceballos for some reason, and United have been linked – albeit not as strongly as Arsenal and Spurs, which is pretty ridiculous. United have already let Spurs secure Ndombele (allegedly) and letting them pair him with Ceballos, who is currently dominating the U-21 Euros for the second tournament in a row, would be disastrous.
No player has completed more take-ons, won more fouls, created more chances or provided more assists so far at the #U21EURO than Dani Ceballos.
Oh, he's scored two belters as well. 🕺 pic.twitter.com/kuUNel6Sf7
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 22, 2019
Plus, United need Ceballos for his own ability if nothing else. His skill-set has no weaknesses. He can tackle, he can pass, he can dribble, he can score too. He’s a consummate box-to-box midfielder with enough poise and brains to dictate the tempo of a match and keep things running, enough grit and determination to track back and help his defence and enough potency to drive forward and impact attack. If Real Madrid really are open to selling him for as little as €50m then Man Utd need to snap their hands off because this kid could be a Premier League legend if given the right platform.