With the merriment of Christmas and the perennial anti-climax of New Year’s over and done with, we see the opening of the January window and with it the traditional speculation over looming transfers; both genuine and fabricated.
Football fans up and down the country will be formulating their ideal signings from the ridiculously ambitious luring of a world star to the more pragmatic stop-gap signings and seeing as I am no different to any other fan, I’ve come up with my potential ideal Manchester United XI (using players that have recently been linked with the club in the press).
Despite having conceded only a single goal more than League leaders Chelsea and Manchester City, it would be difficult to argue against the fact that United are in desperate need of some defensive solidity; more importantly, leadership. Whether that comes from a respite in our injury crisis or in the form of a new signing remains to be seen but I suspect that the latter would be the more popular option.
Most will point towards the likes of Hummels of Dortmund or Godin of Atletico but I cannot think of many defenders that have come into the Premier League and settled immediately. Two of United’s greatest ever centre backs, Jaap Stam and Nemanja Vidic, had notoriously difficult initiations and neither Godin nor Hummels are in their class.
Atletico’s continued involvement in the Champions League also likely precludes any transfer involving Godin from materialising and Hummels leaving Dortmund (where he is captain) mid-season is also highly unlikely.
With that in mind and given that January is a difficult time to buy top class players, if United are genuinely thinking about dipping into the transfer market they will likely be looking at short term defensive options who can make an immediate impact, players with Premier League experience for a “relatively” cheap fee.
The most obvious to fit that category is Ron Vlaar and his familiarity with The Orange One’s methods will likely make him the preferable signing. Another option might be Winston Reid of West Ham United. Reid has been mightily impressive in the Hammers’ climb up the table this year and, at 26 years old, has his best years ahead of him. However, neither represents the type of player we would need in the long term and perhaps our most important improvement required in the squad is to reduce the injury list!
There have also been rumours of late that Sami Khedira may be available for a cut price £5m this month as his contract with Real Madrid is due to expire in the summer. This would be a good bit of business for us I feel and would also further drop Fletcher down the pecking order. An added bonus. Khedira’s main attributes mirror what Fletcher brought to the side at his peak; high work rate, tenacity, aggression and he can play a bit too. If his injury troubles are behind him he could be an excellent signing for us.
Having said all that, our most important signing in the coming months has to be to tie David de Gea down to a new, fat, long term contract and I’m hopeful, if not certain, that Woodward is already on this.
So, with all of the above in mind, here is my ideal Manchester United XI:
Subs: Lindegaard, Rojo, Herrera, Blind, Januzaj, Mata, RVP/Falcao
But, in the interest of being realistic, here’s my other XI which is certainly more achievable:
Subs: Lindegaard, Smalling, Evans, Herrera, Blind, Januzaj, Mata
NB. One could argue that we perhaps do not need to sign anyone at this stage of the season and we only really need to clear the injury list with Herrera slotting into where I have placed Khedira in the above formation.
This is certainly true if we are unable to acquire any of our top level targets. I’d love us to sign the likes of Hummels, Godin, Strootman, Depay etc. but the likelihood of a move materialising in January for any player at that level is slim and I’ve always argued against signing players for the sake of it. They must be the right players.