While Manchester United have made a lot of improvements under Erik ten Hag, a Premier League title challenge currently looks out of their reach.
After losing 3-2 against Arsenal at The Emirates, they are now 11 points behind Mikel Arteta’s side and have also played a game more than the current league leaders.
But Ten Hag will just be targeting a top-four finish before he can strengthen his squad once again in the summer transfer window.
We’ve taken a look at five players they should be targeting, if they want to challenge for the league title in 2023/24.
While David de Gea has made some sensational saves for United this season, there are still question marks over his suitability to Erik ten Hag’s system.
Ten Hag likes his goalkeepers to be proactive and play out from the back but De Gea isn’t comfortable with the ball at his feet and rarely comes off his line.
Unlike De Gea, Brentford’s David Raya is renowned for his ability on the ball and was named in the Spain squad for the 2022 World Cup.
“I used to play in any position except under the goal,” Raya told the Daily Telegraph. “I liked to touch the ball a lot, to be part of every play. I guess that’s where the skill I have with my feet comes from – and in modern football that is what is demanded of a goalkeeper.
“I’ve been working on coming out from the back since I was a child but now I’m trying to perfect it. I do rondos, things like that. It forces me to be cold-blooded and to have a lot of confidence in myself.
“You’re always exposed to making a mistake, but I have to be calm enough not to get down when that happens. I know that this ability with my feet is something that sets me apart and I repeat to myself that I have to learn to forget the bad moments.”
According to the Daily Telegraph, United are ready to rival both Tottenham and Chelsea in the battle for the Brentford goalkeeper this summer.
Raya has just 18 months left on his contract at the Gtech Community Stadium and would reportedly cost in the region of £15-20m.
United have also been linked with Porto Diogo Costa, but he recently signed a new contract with the Portuguese side and his release clause is now set at €75m.
Despite already having Diogo Dalot, Ten Hag reportedly wants to strengthen his squad by signing another adventurous right-back who can get forward and support the attackers.
While Aaron Wan-Bissaka has impressed in recent weeks, his lack of attacking output remains an issue and he was arguably at fault for Eddie Nketiah’s first goal in Arsenal’s 3-2 win over United.
“It’s just his lack of awareness,” Roy Keane told Sky Sports. “It’s as if he can’t believe someone’s coming around the back of him, because he can see him, he just dozes off. A silly lack of concentration, considering we praise him saying he’s a good defender.”
Ten Hag could look to cash in on the 25-year-old in the summer, with Crystal Palace, West Ham and Wolves all reportedly showing an interest.
According to German journalist Florian Plettenberg, United have a few right-backs on their radar and are looking into a deal for Manchester City academy graduate Jeremie Frimpong.
Frimpong, who now plays for Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga, is an attack-minded full-back and has registered five goals and three assists in 2022/23.
The 22-year-old is reportedly valued at around £25m and would be a suitable stylistic replacement when Dalot is unavailable.
In Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez, United appear to have found a centre-back partnership with the potential to belatedly replace Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
But Ten Hag clearly doesn’t trust Victor Lindelof or Harry Maguire as he has picked left-back Luke Shaw in central defence ahead of the duo.
Maguire and Lindelof have both been linked with moves away while Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe are out of contract at the end of the season.
United will need to sign a new centre-back in the summer and the Daily Mirror claim that United have renewed their interest in Min-jae.
Min-jae only joined Napoli last summer and has filled the void left by Kalidou Koulibaly’s departure, helping propel Luciano Spalletti’s side to the top of the Serie A table.
The South Korea international is nicknamed ‘The Monster’ due to his 6ft 3in physique and has a €45m release clause in his contract that will come into effect in the summer of 2023.
Frenkie de Jong
It’s no secret that Ten Hag identified De Jong as his top transfer target in the summer of 2022.
United reportedly agreed a fee with Barcelona but the transfer deadline came and went, with the Netherlands international ultimately remaining at the Nou Camp.
Christian Eriksen then joined United on a free transfer and has served relatively well as a stop-gap option in the middle of the park, registering one goal and seven assists in the Premier League at the time of writing.
But the Denmark international has been criticised for his lack of defensive output and the BBC claim that Ten Hag has not given up his pursuit of De Jong.
According to reports in Spain, the 25-year-old recently performed a dramatic u-turn during a conversation with Ten Hag, where he stated he is now in favour of the switch to Old Trafford.
De Jong is regarded as one of the best midfielders in the world and would undoubtedly take United up another level, helping them retain possession and dictate games.
Barcelona reportedly want to keep him but their financial situation remains perilous and United should test the waters with a big offer.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 18, 2022
Since Cristiano Ronaldo’s acrimonious departure, United have been on the lookout for a new striker as they look to add more goals to the team.
United have scored just 32 goals in their opening 20 Premier League games in 2022/23 while cross-city neighbours Manchester City have netted 53 goals in the competition.
The Red Devils have signed Burnley’s Wout Weghorst on a temporary deal until the end of the season but the Daily Mail claims that they are planning a summer move for Kane, who would be open to a move to Old Trafford.
Having scored 198 Premier League goals for Tottenham, Kane has established himself as one of the best strikers in the world, and he would be a real statement signing for United.
The 29-year-old has just 18 months left on his current contract and Spurs may be forced to sell in the summer if they receive a bid in the region of £100m.
While that’s a lot of money for a player who turns 30 in July, Kane has shown no signs of slowing down and still guarantees 20 to 25 goals per season.
If they get the deal over the line, United will be hoping that a proven Premier League striker like Kane can follow in the footsteps of Robin van Persie, who moved to Old Trafford at the age of 29 and played a pivotal role in clinching the title in 2012/13.