In the press conference after Manchester United’s collosal win over neighbours City at Old Trafford yesterday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said ‘We know we lack one, two or three players and some experience to be considered a title contender.’
There have also been a number of reports recently that Paul Pogba may, against all odds, decide to commit his future to Manchester United, lessening considerably the need for midfield reinforcements in the first team squad.
So about which positions is Solskjaer talking when he says he needs to strengthen?
Defensively, United are starting to look solid. There are strong backups to David de Gea in Dean Henderson and Sergio Romero. Aaron Wan-Bissaka has Diogo Dalot and Tim Fosu-Mensah as understudies. We have the excellent Shaw and Williams sharing responsibilities at left back.
There are perhaps still a few question marks around the centre back positions and there have been reports linking the Red Devils with Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly. You can see the need for a general back there. But is he necessary when you see the excellent Eric Bailly making his comeback and when you know Axel Tuanzebe is also waiting in the wings? If injury-proneness is not a factor, there is certainly now strength in depth and it is unlikely that this is one of the three positions that Solskjaer wants to augment.
If Pogba were to stay, there is arguably strength in depth in midfield as well. Nemanja Matic has just agreed to stay at Old Trafford and Fred has become almost undroppable this season. So United now have Matic, Pogba, Fernandes, McTominay and Fred all competing for the three midfield roles (or two midfield and one number ten), with the incredibly gifted James Garner knocking at the door to become more involved next season. Let’s say United bought their long-coveted target James Maddison from Leicester City, for example. With everybody fit, who would make way for him?
Perhaps when Solskjaer says we need to sign two or three more, he is already assuming that Pogba will have gone and will need to be replaced. But if not, central midfield may no longer be a huge priority, although bringing in a top prospect such as Birmingham City’s 16-year-old sensation Jude Bellingham might be a target as one to nurture for the future.
Another top reported target for the Reds is Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish, a left winger. But with Anthony Martial transformed since Bruno Fernandes’ arrival, Marcus Rashford to return and Mason Greenwood growing day-by-day into a world class striker, you already have three superb players battling for two positions. So who would you drop to make way for the Villa man? Of course, Grealish would be nice to have, but would he be a priority for the manager at this stage?
Despite that embarrassment of talented riches up front, Odion Ighalo has already demonstrated the need for a different kind of forward. Where tactics call for a more traditional type of striker who can play with his back to goal, United are lacking. So unless the Nigerian’s move is made permanent at the end of this season, a centre forward of that type may well be one of the signings about which the manager is talking.
The one certain priority for Solskjaer must be filling the gaping hole on the right wing. There is not a single natural right winger in the squad and the position is occupied by the likes of natural leftie Dan James, natural striker Mason Greenwood, natural number 10 Juan Mata or natural clothing salesman Jesse Lingard. This is why United must go all out to sign Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and there must be plans B and C in the pipeline in the event that United fail to sign him.
These, then, are the three signings that Solskjaer probably has in mind: right winger, centre forward and a world class young prospect to bring through. That is, assuming Pogba stays …
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