Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was just the latest new manager to realise that having an immediate impact on his side’s fortunes is one thing, carrying on winning beyond the first few weeks is quite another.
One thing is for sure: if they’re to improve on a mediocre position in the league and attempt to win any sort of silverware next term, they’re going to need some fresh blood. Here are five players that United should consider signing.
Right-back has been a problem area for Manchester United almost since Gary Neville hung his boots up back in 2011. The likes of Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Diogo Dalot all played there at one stage or another in 2018/19 but none of the three impressed.
This season the likes of Matt Doherty at Wolves and Trent Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool showed us all the value of a strong, adventurous right-back with good crossing skills who can add another dimension to your attack while more than holding their own when it comes to the ‘day job’ of defending.
Palace’s Wan-Bissaka didn’t boast the same sort of stats as those two going forward but was a breath of fresh air for Palace fans with his powerful runs, good positioning and aerial presence in his debut season. Still only 21, he’s just the sort of long-term purchase who could cement his place in the side for years to come. Thankfully for United, Palace tend to be a selling side.
The only thing better than signing one young attacking full-back, is to sign two.
Operating on the opposite flank, Grimaldo is a 23 year-old Spanish left-back who learnt his trade at Barcelona’s youth Academy, no less. A bad knee injury in February 2013 stopped him from having a fair crack at breaking into the senior team at Barcelona but their loss was Benfica’s gain. The Eagles have a history of developing young players and selling them on for a big profit so a good bid is unlikely to be turned down.
Purchased for just 1.5 million Euros in late 2015, he’s pretty much been an ever-present at the Portuguese giants since arriving.
Short in stature but strong and quick, he provides an excellent outlet on the left wing aided by the sort of technical skills you’d expect from a Barcelona Academy graduate.
With Benfica always winning the league or finishing as runners-up he’s also had a fair bit of experience of playing Champions League football, sadly not a factor when it comes to the 2019/20 season for Man Utd but surely one that will be important for the season after next.
If you take a look at the many Premier League season previews starting to pop up in early anticipation of the 2019/20 season, you’ll find Manchester United feature prominently as top four candidates in spite of this season’s mediocre showing.
This season Grimaldo has played 43 games so far and scored seven goals, yet another string to his bow. Luke Shaw, beware.
We all know Nemanja Matic likes to ‘sit’ and that Paul Pogba likes to roam forward so it’s imperative to have a third player in that midfield who does a bit of both. Enter…Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucoure.
The French 26-year old is just the sort of box-to-box player that Roy Keane used to be and that Marouane Fellaini was meant to be, but never was.
6ft in height, powerful and with a bit of pace when needed, he’s one of those players who does the lot: tackling, short passing, the odd cynical foul (seven bookings this season), a few runs forward with the ball at his feet and a few goals. This season it was five and last season it was seven, so he’s not shy when it comes to having a go.
With Anders Herrera off, Fred unimpressive in his debut season and Scott McTominay still a bit raw at this level, he could be just the sort of intimidating presence in that midfield that they’ve lacked for the past few seasons.
You can bet your bottom dollar his high work rate and tough-tackling would quickly make him a fan’s favourite at Old Trafford.
If United are set on playing 4-3-3 with quick, skilful wide forwards charged with both scoring and creating goals, they might want to have a look at Porto’s Yacine Brahimi.
Unlike the first two names on this list, he’s reaching his peak right now, aged 29. In the name of balance, it pays to have a blend of youth and experience and Brahimi has plenty of years of football under his belt.
An Algerian international who often plays on the opposite flank to Man City’s Riyad Mahrez for his country, he’s spent the best years of his career at Porto where just over 150 appearances have yielded over 40 goals, an extremely impressive return for a player who isn’t an out-and-out forward.
With Anthony Martial seemingly out of favour and Marcus Rashford apparently keen to operate through the middle rather than as a wide player, Brahimi could provide an excellent option with his quick feet, accurate crossing and eye for goal. Due to his age, Porto wouldn’t demand an astronomical fee to let him go.
The on-off transfer of West Ham’s Marko Arnautovic to the Chinese Super League was one of the big stories of the January transfer window.
By all accounts, the promise of an absurd salary was more than enough to turn the head of the Austrian forward, not to mention his entourage of agents, advisers and other hangers-on. In the end, it didn’t happen (we don’t really know why) and Arnautovic talked a good game in the aftermath, claiming he couldn’t turn his back on West Ham’s passionate fans. This despite having clapped them goodbye at the London Stadium.
What we do know is that he’s obviously up for a move to the right club…or if we’re to be cynical, the right pay cheque.
The thing about Arnautovic is that when in the mood, he’s unplayable. Extremely tall at 6ft 4in and muscular with a good turn of pace, he can operate in very different roles. At Stoke he was played as a winger by Mark Hughes while West Ham prefer to use him as a target man where his physical presence allows him to hold the ball up and lay it off to others, flick on long passes to rushing midfielders or try to control long passes with a view to having a shot himself.
At 30 he’s hardly one for the future but his six years of Premier League football, versatility and self-confidence would provide something completely different to what they have at the club.
It’s worth remembering that Dimitar Berbatov was already 27 when he signed for United and there are a few similarities between the two so it’s not that far-fetched that United could get two or three good seasons out of him.