In our new feature, we look at what Premier League clubs need to do in the January transfer window. Next up: Manchester United.
The January transfer window may be three months away, but Premier League clubs up and down the country are busy getting their plans in order to go shopping in the New Year.
The sums spent might not be anywhere near what was laid out in the summer, but the window can play a key role in shaping some teams’ seasons. We took a look at Chelsea’s possible transfer business in January last week, but next up to come under the microscope at TEAMtalk is Manchester United and what they need to do to get their squad right.
Positions to strengthen
Manchester United strengthened the spine of their side in the summer transfer window, but there are still areas of the team that Jose Mourinho needs to address.
Central midfield has been a problem position for the last few years for United and although Paul Pogba has been brought back to Old Trafford in a world record deal, the balance of the engine room has been questioned. Mourinho has so far not been able to get the best out of Pogba fielding him with several different midfield partners and bringing in a more defensive-minded midfielder may enable Mourinho to take the shackles of his big summer purchase.
Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and Morgan Schneiderlin have struggled to hold down starting spots, while Michael Carrick has been somewhat surprisingly been sparingly used by Mourinho.
Mourinho also feels he needs another centre-back to help bolster his defensive options after failing to bring in two central defenders in the summer.
Eric Bailly was signed from Villarreal and while the Ivory Coast international has quickly impressed at Old Trafford, Mourinho is keen to bring in a more experienced performer to his backline. Phil Jones has had his injury problems again this season, while Daley Blind was used there as cover while Chris Smalling was recovering his fitness.
Manchester United transfer targets
Real Madrid and German midfielder Toni Kroos has been a long-term transfer for Manchester United with the playmaker being previously courted by Sir Alex Ferguson. Kroos would bring class and experience to United’s engine room and his arrival could enable Pogba to flourish in the United midfield. United could face competition from Manchester City for Kroos if the midfielder does become available at Real Madrid.
Another midfield target could be Leicester City star Danny Drinkwater with the former United youngster catching the eye of Mourinho.
Drinkwater was instrumental in Leicester’s improbable Premier League title success last season and although he recently signed a new deal at the King Power Stadium the 26-year-old would find it hard to resist a return to his hometown club if United came calling for his services.
Jose Fonte was a target for United in the summer, but Southampton were able to keep hold of the Euro 2016 winner. Mourinho, however, is a huge fan of his fellow Portuguese and with the defender yet to sign a new deal at St Mary’s United could well try and make a new move for the talented stopper when the transfer window swings its doors back open in January. Forget his enhancing years, Fonte could be just the experienced man Mourinho would love at the heart of his backline.
United were the second biggest spenders in the Premier League in the summer transfer window laying out £149.55m on world-record signing Pogba (£93.25m), Bailly (£30m) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£26.3m), but there is still money in the kitty to bolster the squad further.
United are one of the richest clubs in the world and the need to get back into the Champions League next season means the Old Trafford powerbrokers are likely to loosen the purse strings if Mourinho feels he needs to add to his squad in the New Year. Boosted by lucrative commercial deals United will be able to compete with their rivals for any of their top targets.
Wayne Rooney’s future has dominated the headlines in recent weeks after Mourinho took the decision to drop the captain from the starting line-up for the recent Premier League games against Leicester City and Stoke City.
Rooney has struggled for form so far this season and with United having an abundance of attacking options in the side Mourinho has opted to take the 30-year-old out of the firing line. It seems unlikely that Rooney will leave United in January, but if he continues to be left out of the first XI he could be forced to move on with the mega riches on offer in China not totally out of the question – especially given their courtship of the England skipper.
Bastian Schweinsteiger seems almost certain to move on after being totally frozen out of the first-team by Mourinho. The German has not been named in United’s Premier League squad and has not featured so far this season so a parting of the ways seems inevitable, with talk of the MLS a distinct possibility.
Matteo Darmian could also be offloaded with the Italy international struggling to establish himself in Mourinho’s plans. Inter Milan have been strongly linked with Antonio Valencia keeping him out of the side.
Another casualty of the Mourinho reign could be Memphis Depay with the Dutchman continuing to struggle with life at Old Trafford following his big-money arrival from PSV Eindhoven in the summer of 2015. AC Milan have been credited with an interest in signing the Holland international on loan with a view to a permanent deal and the player himself admits his future at the club remains up in the air.