Five players that could take Manchester United to the next level
When Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down as Manchester United manager, it was always going to be difficult in succeeding the Scottish legend, not least because the team in which he left his successor was patently not as good as previous teams which have not only dominated the Premier League, but also the Champions League.
When David Moyes was announced as Ferguson’s heir apparent, it seemed like a good move: a manager recommended by Ferguson who knew the Premier League well and who had always achieved relative success with Everton without spending huge amounts of money.
However, that was the problem: Moyes did not spend a huge amount of money at Manchester United. In fact, Morouane Fellaini was the only signing of any significance to take hold that summer when clearly the squad was not strong enough to compete at the highest level, as all Manchester United teams should.
Despite the arrival of Juan Mata in the following January transfer window, and the occasional glimmer of hope, such as the performances against Bayern Munich – the team that many regarded as the best in the world at that time – Moyes was sacked in May after lasting a measly 10 months as manager at Old Trafford.
After a successful World Cup, where Holland reached the semi-finals and impressively dispatched World and double European Champions Spain 5-1 in the group stage, it seemed like Louis Van Gaal could do no wrong.
After taking over at Manchester United, Van Gaal’s immense status was increased after signing Angel Di Maria, Radamel Falcao, Ander Herrera, Daley Blind, Luke Shaw, Marcos Rojo, and now – his latest big signing – Victor Valdes, it seems like Van Gaal has a supremely better transfer policy than David Moyes.
After a bright first half to the season, Manchester United are currently in fourth spot, the lucrative Champions League position which they desperately need to maintain. Despite the 12 point gap between United and leaders Chelsea, some have suggested that the Manchester side can challenge for the title in the second half of the season. However, realistically, it seems that Manchester United will not even finish as the best side in Manchester this season.
There has been a lot of talk recently comparing David Moyes’ record to Louis Van Gaal’s as the current Manchester United team have amassed the exact same number of points as Moyes’s apparently tactically inadequate side. However, points do not always tell the full story.
The big sides –with the exception of Chelsea and Manchester City- have not found their consistency yet, and have not performed as well as last season, meaning Southampton and West Ham have emerged as European challengers.
Furthermore, without European football it has been far easier for Van Gaal to play, as best exemplified by Liverpool’s majestic run at the tail-end of last season which nearly saw the Merseyside club crowned champions of England, before it cruelly slipped away.
However, it is also true that Chelsea, the leaders of the Premier League, have a much better side this season. The additions of Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas and the return for Courtois has not only made this possible, but allowed Chelsea to be thought as potential Premier League and Champions League challengers, at the very least. After his January move, Nemanja Matic has also played an integral part, one in which does not always seem to be appreciated.
There is still room for improvement for Manchester United, especially with the defensive side to their game, even with the brilliant performances of goalkeeper David De Gea. Whilst much has been made of Manchester United’s apparent leaky defence, they have only conceded two more goals than the Chelsea defence in the league.
This is not to say that Manchester United’s defence does not need strengthening, because it does, but some people make mountains out of problems. The signing of Victor Valdes is no doubt a good one, but one wonders where it leaves David De Gea, with rumours circulating that he is set to join Real Madrid as long-term successor of the ageing Iker Casillas.
Here are 5 players that should be signed:
The Dutch winger is exactly what Manchester United need on their wings: pace, skill and goals. Whilst it is true that Antonio Valencia and Ashley young have put in some satisfactory performances in recent months, signing Depay would be a huge step in the right direction. At the age of 20, the Dutchman has huge potential and whilst other clubs may show their interest, cementing a Champions League position would surely place United into an even more secure position when trying to convince potential world-class talent to play their football at Old Trafford.
Pedro is another winger who Van Gaal should be looking at, due to his versatility, technical ability and pace. The Spanish international has found opportunities increasingly harder to come by this season, due to Barcelona’s impressive triumvirate of Messi, Suarez and Neymar. Although he is right-footed, Pedro can also play extremely well with his left; something that is not that common, even in some of the best of players. However, with the transfer embargo that Barcelona face – meaning that they cannot buy anyone until the start of 2016 – Van Gaal and co would have to produce a lucrative bid in order to persuade the Barcelona president to sell him, and with elections in the summer for the aforementioned presidency, this is not going to be an easy task.
Aymeric Laporte is another young player with a lot of potential. However, he is neither cheap nor lacks any interest from several big European clubs (Barcelona and Real Madrid). The Athletic Bilbao centre-back has been touted as a future French star – along with another trio of players that United should be looking at – Raphael Varane, Paul Pogba and Antoinne Griezmann. However, according to some reports, Van Gaal is refusing to increase his £25 million transfer bid which will surely alert more interest from Arsenal and Chelsea. Laporte’s release clause is £32 million, and if United want to sign him, they may have to up their bid. One thing is for sure: Ander Herrera will be doing all he can in persuading Van Gaal to sign Laporte, as his £32 million transfer should be a valuable investment for the 20 year old.
Alongside Laporte, Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin would be another impressive capture. Unlike Laporte, Godin has a wealth of experience; in the Champions League, in the World Cup and in La Liga. Godin has played for a couple of top Spanish sides in Villarreal and Atletico Madrid. Not only does he have fantastic defensive abilities, such as tackling, blocking and heading, he can play the ball out of the back, can score attacking headers and is a fantastic leader which would make him the perfect defender for Laporte to partner. Rio Ferdinand, one of the best English centre-backs of recent years, and a Manchester United legend, has recently commented wishing his former club sign Diego Godin, describing him as solid.
The right-back position also needs strengthening and Brazilian and Barcelona star, Dani Alves is available on a free transfer in the summer. Whilst he is 31, Alves would still be a very good capture for the Manchester club, as they attempt to improve all of their positions. His attacking ability makes him perfect for the Manchester United philosophy and he could be a shrewd signing for a couple of seasons.
What can be achieved this season?
A top four finish would undoubtedly be a great achievement, but this is the minimum that is expected from the fans, the board, the manager and the players themselves. Perhaps the title race is a step too far for Manchester United this season, but next season they could challenge Manchester City and Chelsea for the Premier League title. As a consequence of this, it could also be seen that next season will be the season in which Premier League teams perform well in the Champions League and one of them could even win it, although Chelsea and Manchester City fans will be saying that they can win it this season. Even if they do, next season could be the season that the Premier League is back on the European stage, just like the mid-2000’s.
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