Manchester United have announced Ole Gunner Solskjaer as their new permanent manager, and the Norwegian is reportedly already planning changes in the summer.
Solskjaer has done an impressive job since replacing Jose Mourinho in December, turning United’s season around with someone else’s squad – having made no signings in January.
But now that he has been backed for the next three years with the permanent role, Solskjaer is ready to make this United squad his own.
According to reports, the newly-appointed United boss will be looking to make four new signings in the summer in hopes of pushing the Red Devils back into the title picture – having gone six years without a Premier League trophy.
But, if United do back him, which four players should Solskjaer go for from the vast talent pool that is world football? Read on to find out the opinions of four Squawka writers plus others from the footballing world.
Muhammad Butt (@muhammadbutt)
Manchester United are rumoured to be backing newly-announced manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with four signings in the summer. It’s clear they need a centre-back, right-back, right-winger and defensive midfielder – but who will fill those positions?
At centre-back, there are a few options such as Samuel Umtiti, Nikola Milenkovic and Joachim Andersen but the one that stands out above all is Kalidou Koulibaly. Napoli’s totemic presence at the back, Koulibaly is not only a magnificent defender in his own right but a tremendous leader and organiser – which are exactly the qualities United need.
At right-back Ashley Young is a stopgap, Antonio Valencia on his way out, and Diogo Dalot is too raw. So United should move for Crystal Palace’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka. The 21-year-old Englishman is a phenomenal full-back with athletic and technical qualities too numerous to list and a mental strength that belies his age. He was the first player in Europe’s top five leagues to make 100+ tackles this season and has only been dribbled past by seven players.
Right-wing is very simple: Jadon Sancho. The mercurial majestic mind-blowingly magical teenager is tearing up the Bundesliga. Across Europe’s top five leagues the only player who has as many assists as he does is Lionel Messi. And when you’re keeping pace with the World’s Finest, you’ve definitely got what it takes.
Defensive midfield is a need as big as centre-back, really. Nemanja Matic isn’t fit for purpose and Scott McTominay is just a younger version of Matic which makes him a good back-up but a poor starter. United need someone who can shield the defence, prevent counter-attacks and then start attacks with quick passes but who also has the vision to split the defence with longer passes and through-balls. Ivan Rakitic is everything Manchester United need, and along with Koulibaly would be the defensive leader of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s new-look Manchester United.
Harry Edwards (@harryedwards16)
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has made it pretty much clear that he wants to build for the future, so it would only make sense for him to look into signing players with much of their career still to come – barring injuries.
However, he should start with an experienced centre-back in Kalidou Koulibaly. While Matthijs de Ligt may seem like the dream option, the Ajax defender looks set to join Barcelona or Real Madrid – and unfortunately United cannot compete with those clubs at this time. In Koulibaly, Solskjaer would have a perfect partner for Victor Lindelof to secure the defence, much like Virgil van Dijk has at Liverpool.
Slightly ahead of him United could need someone to replace Ander Herrera should the Spaniard not sign a new deal, and they should look no further than Tanguy Ndombele. The 22-year-old has been a wonderful part of Lyon’s young team with his ability to bring the ball out from deep to push his team forward, something which could work well when placed alongside a more defensive-minded Nemanja Matic.
Going into next season, full-back seems to be the biggest problem for United, with Antonio Valencia confirmed to be leaving and Ashely Young not getting any older. Luke Shaw looks secure at left-back but Diogo Dalot may be uncomfortable in being thrust into a starting role. He may be expensive, but Joao Cancelo could be the man to remedy this, allowing Dalot time to grow – while still giving United strength on the right. Cancelo’s ability to also play on the left means United will have strength in depth.
Finally, and possibly the most expensive on the list, United need to go all out in bringing Jadon Sancho back to England. Alexis Sanchez hasn’t worked out and Sancho has been simply brilliant for Borussia Dortmund, with aspects he can put into a United front line alongside Marcus Rashford and one of Romelu Lukaku or Anthony Martial. Plus, he’s young and would count as homegrown so would tick all the boxes for the future.
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Chris Smith (@CJSmith91)
Solskjaer may have improved the form of Victor Lindelof, possibly even turning him into a long-term option at centre-back, but he still needs a partner. Kalidou Koulibaly would be a perfect fit. The Senegalese is an absolute mountain at the back, winning more aerial duels (61) than any other Napoli player in Serie A this season, while he is second only to Allan in tackles (44), duels won (126) and recoveries (177) at the San Paolo.
After seeing how much Alexis Sanchez has flopped, Solskjaer will undoubtedly want his next attacking signing to be young and fresh. They already have Rashford and Lukaku to play through the middle, while Martial and Lingard remain potent counter-attacking weapons. But England golden boy Jadon Sancho could open up new avenues entirely for the Red Devils on either wing. He’s quick, direct and can pass a defender by like nobody else. Crucially, with 10 goals and 18 assists in 47 games for Dortmund in all competitions, the 19-year-old already has devastating end product.
With Luke Shaw looking resurgent at left-back, United seem pretty much sorted on that side of the pitch. However, Ashley Young and Diogo Dalor are their main options at right-back. The former won’t be around for long though, so why not go out and sign the Premier League’s ‘tackle king’? Indeed, Aaron Wan-Bissaka recently moved past Idrissa Gueye and Wilfred Ndidi (both 108) to 109 tackles, and looks every inch a long-term, top-class right-back that can add solidarity at the back and relentless energy and dynamism going forward.
This last one is a little more ‘out there’ given the speculation linking him with Manchester City, but Declan Rice would be a perfect fit for United. The now-England international is seen as the perfect Fernandinho replacement but honestly, he could be so much more. Taking a look at what United have, he has the tackling and in-game management abilities of Nemanja Matic, the energy and dynamism of Ander Herrera and the ability to control games from deep, playing short and long passes in the way United wanted Fred to do when he signed last year. Given his age and status, the price would be high, especially as they’d have to go toe-to-toe with their biggest rivals, but Rice can tick all boxes in the United midfield. The added bonus is that he’s just 20-years-old.
Nick Thompson (@NickThompson_93)
As a Spurs fan, I’d be less than wild about this but it certainly makes sense from a United perspective to go after Toby Alderweireld.
He is, as far as centre-backs go, elite, and at a cut-price £25m due to his contractual buy-out clause, even at 30-years-old, United ought to consider him.
He would be an upgrade on all of the club’s current centre-halves; probably the only player in the league that can claim to be better is Van Dijk.
Further up the pitch, Jadon Sancho would be the perfect addition, and the sort of talent to become the new face of the Solkjaer era.
United are already blessed with speed in abundance on the wings but both Rashford and Martial are wing-forwards (if not strikers); Sancho is a genuine winger with the sort of dribbling ability (at speed) rarely seen in an English footballer.
The cost would be huge, but then United have loads of money and need to start spending smartly on talent in order to actually turn a corner and put an end to the post-Fergie malaise once and for all.
Then, Adrien Rabiot could be the ideal replacement for Marouane Fellaini, and he’ll be available at a cheaper price too due to his contractual standoff.
The holding midfielder would be the perfect foil for Pogba, and would compliment the skill-set of Matic and Herrera well.
The United hierarchy might feel he would stymy the development of Scott McTominay, however.
And finally, with Alderweireld secured, the Red Devils should also go after Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly.
The Senegalese has shown over the past couple of seasons that he is of the highest quality and at 27, would still give a decent return on a big financial outlay.
What others are saying
It is not just Squawka’s writers having their say on who Solskjaer should sign. Prior to Manchester United’s official announcement, former player and current England Women’s manager Phil Neville gave his list on who the club should look to sign with Ole at the wheel.
“Gareth Bale is ready-made,” Neville told Premier League Today, as reported by Sky Sports.
“Ole has said he wants to buy a hungry player. I think [Jadon] Sancho is that hungry player. But Bale has won Champions Leagues and played at the top level.
“I don’t think wages are an issue at Manchester United. You are talking guaranteed quality who can play across the front line.
“The two signings in the back four would be Raphael Varane from Real Madrid and Joao Cancelo from Juventus.
“Cancelo, I worked with him at Valencia and have seen him at Juventus and I think he’s top drawer.”
“Eric Dier as the holding midfield player and Philippe Coutinho, who there has been a bit of speculation about.
“You have to have British players in a title-winning team. [Ander] Herrera, Fred and [Scott] McTominay are part of the squad. [Nemanja] Matic, this season, has had a dip.”