Manchester United Top 5 Summer Targets
By all accounts, Manchester United have had a season to forget. By the end of his tenure, David Moyes became known as the “Record breaker” for all the wrong reasons. The long list of unwanted records include the lowest points tally in United’s Premier League history, the worst home form for over a decade, and failing to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 19 years. While David Moyes took a lot of the blame, it is widely accepted that, despite inheriting resounding league Champions, he had control of an aging squad that lacked depth and quality. Whoever the new manager may be, a summer rebuild is more than on the cards at United, with a rumoured £150million war chest available to spend. As a United fan myself, I have picked who I believe should be the club’s top 5 transfer targets, ahead a summer that could shape the future of the club.
Position: Left Back
Target: Luke Shaw
Estimated Value: £25million
Luke Shaw’s rise to prominence has been meteoric to say the least. The 18 year old has become a regular starter in Southampton’s ever improving side under Pochettino, with impressive performances resulting in his first England call up against Denmark at Wembley. Very much a modern day Left Back, Shaw is solid defensively but is blessed with great pace and loves to get forward and overlap on the winger. Shaw has played 33 times in the league this season for The Saints, creating an impressive 31 chances for his team mates. Speculation is now mounting that United have tabled a massive bid for the impressive teenager, with club scouts having been sent out on numerous occasions to watch the left back. With Patrice Evra’s future uncertain, and Alex Büttner not particularly impressing, Shaw could be the perfect long term left back option.
Position: Centre Back
Target: Mehdi Benatia
Estimated Value: £23million
Experienced Centre Back Mehdi Benatia has enjoyed a fantastic first season at the Stadio Olimpico. The France-born Moroccan international now looks to have been a bargain at £12million, having almost doubled in value in just under a year. While Benatia was a major factor in Roma’s record of 2 goals conceded in the first 12 Serie A fixtures, incredibly he also went into the New Year as Roma’s joint top scorer. The Defender, who recently revealed that he declined a three year contract from Chelsea earlier in his career, could be a perfect replacement for United’s departing Captain Nemanja Vidic. At the age of 27, Benatia has many years left at the very top, as well as having enough experience to be able to hit the ground running should a Premier League move come about.
Position: Defensive Midfield
Target: Lars Bender
Estimated Value: £20million
Lars Bender is one of the few players in the Bayer Leverkusen squad who can hold their head high, after what has been a poor campaign all-round. The Arsenal target is likely to leave in the summer after the recent sacking of manager Sami Hyypiä, and is a player I would love to see donning the Manchester United shirt. The 25 year old is a true box to box midfielder who goes about his game in a very calm and fluid manner, and is widely seen as a more dynamic player compared to his twin brother and Dortmund Midfielder Sven Bender. Last season, Lars Bender created 31 chances in 33 games for Leverkusen from the deep Midfield position, as well as completing an impressive 81% of his attempted tackles. I see Lars Bender as a very unique defensive midfielder, who can offer plenty going forward in addition to having a great defensive mind. He would be a huge coup for the reported £20million fee which Bayer are holding out for.
Postition: Centre Midfield
Target: Ivan Rakitic
Estimated Value: £30million
Sevilla Captain Ivan Rakitic is finally fulfilling the promise that he showed when he first broke onto the first team scene with FC Basel. The versatile midfielder cost Sevilla a miserly £2million back in 2011, and has gone on to become one of the stand out performers in La Liga on a consistent basis – which is some feat. This season, Rakitic has scored 15 goals and has 19 assists to his name, including two stunning performances home and away against Real Madrid in the league – resulting in keen interest from Real themselves. While he is said to prefer an enganche (playmaker) role in the middle of the pitch, Rakitic is equally comfortable playing deep in midfield, in an attacking midfield/number 10 role, and on both wings, making him a commodity for any top club. Still only 26, the cultured midfielder already has 60 international caps to his name for Croatia, and has competed in both Euro 2008 and Euro 2012 for the nation, despite representing Switzerland at Under 21 level. With Sevilla seemingly set to miss out on a Champions League berth, Rakitic may finally be open to a move away from the club – with the Premier League thought to be high on his agenda.
Target: Antoine Griezmann
Estimated Value: £27million
Antoine Griezmann is another player who has put talk of wasted potential to bed of late, with impressive showings week in week out in Spain. The winger was instrumental in Real Sociedad securing 4th place in the 2012-13 season, and has gone from strength to strength this season with his new found freedom within the team. If ever the phrase “Start as you mean to go on” was relevant, Griezmann scored a magnificent bicycle kick at the beginning of the season in the second leg of the Champions League playoff round against Lyon (the team he and his father used to have season tickets for when he was a child) to put Sociedad into the Champions League for the first time in 9 years. Although Sociedad didn’t make it out of the tough group they were given (which included Manchester United), Griezmann has gone on to score 20 goals all competitions, with three league games still left to play. Griezmann would be a great option for United, who have traditionally played old school wingers who like to beat opposition defenders on the outside, and whip early crosses into the area. Griezmann is both capable of fulfilling this role, as well as an inside forward role from the Wing, allowing him to drift infield in and around the strikers.
Although the money is going to be there for Manchester United to invest in the summer, it is crucial that it is spent wisely. A repeat performance of the £27million splashed on Marouane Fellaini for minimal return could be disastrous in United’s attempt to climb back up the ladder. While they may be able to cope with one season without Champions League football, two seasons out could be cataclysmic. Plain and simple, this summer could make or break Manchester United Football Club.