The biggest hurdle standing between José Mourinho and a first Premier League title with Manchester United is the quality of his squad. Despite the additions of Paul Pogba, Eric Bailly, Henrikh Mikhitaryan and old man Ibrahimovi? there are still far too many players who would not get into some of the other top teams.
Starting at the back and the addition of Eric Bailly does not make the United defence watertight. Luke Shaw is fine and will improve with age, whereas the other full back position is a problem.
Matteo Darmian doesn’t seem to fit the bill and will probably depart sooner rather than later. His potential replacements are a winger who can’t defend and a youngster who again, like Shaw, will improve with age but he doesn’t yet have enough trust from Mourinho to mean that United don’t need to enter the market for a replacement.
So a new full back is required.
In the centre of defence the best partnership at present is Bailly and Daley Blind. This, however, is not Blind’s best position and he is definitely no specialist. Axel Tuanzebe seems to be a natural but is on the young side.
None of the trio of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling or Marcos Rojo can be trusted not to do something incredibly stupid and, for this reason, I would look at selling all three of them. Obviously this would mean at least two replacements being purchased.
So two new centre backs are required.
The midfield area is the strongest part of the team so there shouldn’t really be any need to strengthen here. If, however, Mourinho thinks that Fellaini is the required standard then maybe there is a problem. In fairness, if the likes of Antoine Griezman become available in the near future. then this is a player who can’t be ignored. In truth, Morgan Schneiderlin, Pogba, Ander Herrera, Juan Mata, Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger should suffice for the foreseeable future.
The role of wide player is another one into which Antoine Griezmann would fit quite nicely making his potential purchase even more sensible, particularly when considering that Ashley Young and Jesse Lingard are, in my book, surplus to requirements.
Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are not really wide players but they can do an admirable job in that position when required.
So no new wide man required unless a world class player becomes available.
The striking positions are the most questionable as to whether or not any new blood is required. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a boost to the team when he is scoring goals, but can be a burden when he isn’t. Add to that the fact that he is a very short term solution and a new addition should be considered.
Wayne Rooney no longer has a best or worst position, he just shouldn’t be playing, simple as that. Marcus Rashford is a natural and should be playing every week but he will still, at some time, get injured or suspended which would leave Anthony Martial, who is currently suffering a loss of form, to lead the line on his own.
So a new striker is required.
The conclusion, having taken each outfield position into consideration, is that Manchester United need at least four new players if they are to challenge for the title.
If Mourinho needs to sell before he can buy there are countless squad members who bring nothing to the team and would not be missed, so this should not present a problem. His preference to buy quality over quantity means that to finance the purchase of one player he may have to sell three but this, again, should not be a problem.
Should Manchester United be crowned Premier League Champions next May it will be because of astute buying in January, not because they have a great squad now!
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