It has been a very encouraging campaign for Ole Gunnar Solskjear’s Manchester United. A second-placed finish in the Premier League is an improvement on last season, and they could yet add a European trophy to their collection as they face Unai Emery’s Villareal in the Europa League final.
Second place, however, is not where the club wants to be, certainly not when the team ahead of them are their cross-city neighbours and biggest rivals. With Liverpool sure to improve from after a poor season, and Chelsea seemingly moving in an upwards trajectory under Thomas Tuchel, Manchester United may need to invest in their side in order to maintain any chances of competing for the title next season. But where should they be looking at? 101 identifies 3 positions that need filling at Old Trafford.
3. Right Centre-back.
Manchester United have conceded 43 goals so far this season, more than Chelsea, Manchester City, and even Arsenal. Whilst it may not be the single most pressing issue on the pitch, signing a new partner for Harry Maguire would be a smart move if the transfer budget allows. It is not just defensive ability that the incoming player would need, however, with leadership low in the back-line. In Maguire’s absence, Manchester United have taken one from a possible six points, with a lack of defensive solidity a key factor.
101’s suggestion: Pau Torres
Okay, so Pau Torres to Manchester United is not a groundbreaking new suggestion. However, the Villareal defender would offer a perfect companion to Harry Maguire. A natural left-footed player, he would allow Harry Maguire to move to the right-hand side of central defence. Moreover, he is a leader in the Yellow Submarine’s defence, and offers composure on the ball combined with an ability to drive into midfield when required.
— Villarreal Türkiye (@VillarrealTR_) May 13, 2021
The major stumbling block may be the price tag. Under contract until 2024 in Spain, the 24-year-old is valued at €45 million according to transfermarkt, However, Torres has a release clause of €50 million, and it is unlikely that Villareal would be willing to sell their star defender for less than that, meaning that United will have to splash out to bring him to Old Trafford.
2. Right Winger
The Red Devils desperately need width down the right flank. With full-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka much improved this season but still not the most competent in the final third, United have tended to avoid the right wing during attacks. Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood have deputised capably on the right, but their best positions still lay elsewhere. A natural right-sided player would represent a massive upgrade for Solskjear’s side, allowing them more variety in methods of scoring as well as more width on the counter-attack.
Manchester United’s pursuit of Jadon Sancho has been well documented. After failing in their move for him last summer, it is quite possible that they get their way this summer. If they don’t however, there are certainly other options available.
101’s suggestion: David Neres
Were United to fail in their pursuit of Sancho, they could do far worse than David Neres. Like Sancho, the Ajax man is a left-footed winger that can play on either flank, whilst he too is blessed with explosive pace. Three goals and five assists this season does not do his underlying quality justice, and his ability to hold onto the ball will allow his teammates to get up the pitch as they seek to counter.
The final training session of season 2020/21! And perhaps the last training session of David Neres at Ajax.. pic.twitter.com/ovHNNbJ487
— (@TheEuropeanLad) May 15, 2021
Contracted until 2023, Neres could be a very good-value option if United can’t land their primary target. The 24-year-old is valued at £25 million by transfermarkt, and would likely be available for just half of Sancho’s rumoured £80 million price tag. Whilst he may not hit the heights that Sancho could, he would certainly represent an upgrade on United’s current options.
The number one priority for Manchester United has to be finding a new option in central midfield. Whilst Scott McTominay and Fred are both good enough to play against most opposition, they are found out against the very top sides. To begin to compete at the very top level again, Manchester United need a midfielder that is able to dictate games and break up counterattacks once again.
One player that ticks all of the boxes is Wilfried Ndidi, currently playing at Leicester City. Although he would cost a significant sum, he would immediately improve United’s midfield and add some much-needed class in the central areas.
Wilfred Ndidi in the #FACupFinal:
100% long pass accuracy
100% aerial duels won
92% pass accuracy
9 attempted tackles
7 successful tackles
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) May 15, 2021
Leicester City could already have indicated that the Nigerian is up for sale this summer too, inching closer to a deal for Lille midfielder Boubacary Soumare, who tends to occupy the same position as Ndidi. This could suggest that the FA cup winners may be inclined to sell Ndidi were a suitable offer to come in.
Sizeable outlay needed:
Quality signings in these three positions would immediately elevate Manchester United to a level above their performances this season. With Edinson Cavani signing a new contract last week, they do not need to worry about a new striker this summer, meaning that they can focus on the other positions of need. If the Red Devils could pull off these three signings, they may just head into the new season as favourites.
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|1||Manchester City FC||37||46||83|
|2||Manchester United FC||37||28||71|
|4||Leicester City FC||37||20||66|
|6||Tottenham Hotspur FC||36||22||59|
|7||West Ham United FC||36||10||59|
|11||Aston Villa FC||36||7||49|
|12||Wolverhampton Wanderers FC||36||-14||45|
|13||Crystal Palace FC||36||-21||44|
|15||Brighton & Hove Albion FC||37||-4||41|
|17||Newcastle United FC||36||-19||39|
|19||West Bromwich Albion||36||-37||26|
|20||Sheffield United FC||36||-43||20|
|Kane, Harry||Tottenham Hotspur FC||22|
|Salah, Mohamed||Liverpool FC||22|
|Fernandes, Bruno||Manchester United FC||17|
|Son, Heung Min||Tottenham Hotspur FC||17|
|Bamford, Patrick||Leeds United||16|
|Calvert-Lewin, Dominic||Everton FC||16|
|Vardy, Jamie||Leicester City FC||13|
|Watkins, Ollie||Aston Villa FC||13|
|Gundogan, Ilkay||Manchester City FC||13|
|Lacazette, Alexandre||Arsenal FC||13|
|Wilson, Callum||Newcastle United FC||12|
|Ings, Danny||Southampton FC||12|
|Wood, Chris||Burnley FC||12|
|Iheanacho, Kelechi||Leicester City FC||12|
|Rashford, Marcus||Manchester United FC||11|
|Zaha, Wilfried||Crystal Palace FC||11|
|Pereira, Matheus||West Bromwich Albion||10|
|Sterling, Raheem||Manchester City FC||10|
|Cavani, Edinson||Manchester United FC||10|
|Aubameyang, Pierre-Emerick||Arsenal FC||10|
|Player||Team||Red Cards||Yellow Cards|
|Maguire, Harry||Manchester United FC||0||11|
|McGinn, John||Aston Villa FC||0||10|
|Gallagher, Conor||West Bromwich Albion||0||10|
|Milivojevic, Luka||Crystal Palace FC||1||8|
|Lundstram, John||Sheffield United FC||1||8|
|Phillips, Kalvin||Leeds United||0||9|
|Luiz, Douglas||Aston Villa FC||0||8|
|Bissouma, Yves||Brighton & Hove Albion FC||1||8|
|Soucek, Tomas||West Ham United FC||1||7|
|Hojbjerg, Pierre||Tottenham Hotspur FC||0||8|
|Shaw, Luke||Manchester United FC||0||8|
|Xhaka, Granit||Arsenal FC||1||7|
|Bellerin, Hector||Arsenal FC||0||8|
|Andersen, Joachim||Fulham FC||1||7|
|Egan, John||Sheffield United FC||1||7|
|Holgate, Mason||Everton FC||0||8|
|Hayden, Isaac||Newcastle United FC||0||8|
|Dallas, Stuart||Leeds United||0||7|
|McGoldrick, David||Sheffield United FC||0||7|
|Reid, Bobby||Fulham FC||0||7|
|Kane, Harry||Tottenham Hotspur FC||13|
|Fernandes, Bruno||Manchester United FC||12|
|Son, Heung Min||Tottenham Hotspur FC||10|
|Grealish, Jack||Aston Villa FC||10|
|De Bruyne, Kevin||Manchester City FC||10|
|Rashford, Marcus||Manchester United FC||9|
|Vardy, Jamie||Leicester City FC||8|
|Harrison, Jack||Leeds United||8|
|Werner, Timo||Chelsea FC||8|
|Gross, Pascal||Brighton & Hove Albion FC||8|
|Pereira, Matheus||West Bromwich Albion||7|
|Mane, Sadio||Liverpool FC||7|
|Ward-Prowse, James||Southampton FC||7|
|Eze, Eberechi||Crystal Palace FC||7|
|Alexander-Arnold, Trent||Liverpool FC||7|
|Cresswell, Aaron||West Ham United FC||7|
|Digne, Lucas||Everton FC||7|
|Bamford, Patrick||Leeds United||6|
|Sterling, Raheem||Manchester City FC||6|