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Free agents Manchester United should look to sign this summer

by Derick Kinoti

New United manager Erik ten Hag has a massive job on his hands. Manchester United require to strengthen in multiple positions after a disastrous 2021/2022 campaign that saw the club finish in sixth place, just enough for a Europa league spot.

With the high profile exits of several stars such as Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and others coupled with a reported transfer budget of just £120million, a major chunk of which will be splashed on the imminent arrival of Frenkie de Jong, the Red Devils may turn to the free agent market to address some of their more immediate needs as the club looks to bolster their squad ahead of the new season.  Here are some of the free agents Manchester United could or should look to add to their ranks.

Paulo Dybala

With doubts hanging around the future of Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United and Anthony Martial as the only other natural striker within the squad after the exit of Edinson Cavani, Dybala may be someone worth looking at.  While he naturally plays as a second striker, the 28-year-old Argentine has been deployed in a false nine position by his former club.

Dybala, who has been linked with Manchester United in the past, is currently a free agent after a seven year stint at Juventus. It remains to be seen whether United bosses would sanction such a move for a clearly world class player but one with nagging injury concerns and likely high wage demands if he was to make the switch from Italy to the Premier League.

Andrea Belotti

Like Dybala, 28-year-old Andrea Bellotti was heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford in 2017, but ended up staying at Torino, where he amassed an impressive 113 goals for the Italian side in his seven years in Serie A. A physical and imposing striker capable of leading the line for United, Belotti would certainly fit the mould of a Premier League striker.

Unlike Dybala, he would not command a hefty wage and would certainly be both a worthy deputy to the aging Ronaldo if he stays or could even become the new man to spearhead United’s attack as a starting striker.

Ousmane Dembele 

Any club, Manchester United included, would love to have Dembele. A fast, intelligent  and tricky forward, the 25-year-old French international and Barcelona winger would be a welcome addition at Old Trafford. Locked in salary negotiations with Barcelona who are currently in financial turmoil and can’t meet his demands, Ousmane Dembele could be well on his way out of the Spanish giants.

With Barca’s reported interest in Leeds winger Raphinha, it appears that Dembele’s time at the Blaugrana could be over. An unstoppable creative machine with an impressive goal and assist tally despite missing numerous games with injury, Dembele is someone the Red Devils should look to get onto their books.

His arrival could be enhanced with reports that Erik ten Hag would like a dynamic forward capable of playing multiple positions across the frontline. This is something Dembele succeeds at and with Ajax’s high valuation of Antony, Dembele could be a solution in the market for United.

Dries Mertens

35-year-old Belgian forward Dries Mertens is another free agent United should look to sign ahead of the 2022/2023 season. A versatile forward with lots of experience behind him after 295 appearances for Napoli, becoming the club’s all time goal scorer, Mertens would be a suitable stop gap for United.

With primary club targets such as Antony being effectively priced out of a move due to their high valuations, Mertens would provide cover in the forward positions for at least a season, enabling the club to focus on other positions and prioritize a striker next summer. The sticking point for such a move is the Belgian’s age and whether he would favor a move to the Premier League at 35.

Dan-Axel Zagadou

It is an open secret that United boss Erik ten Hag would like defensive reinforcements as he shapes his squad for the new season. Manchester United conceded a club record 57 goals in the Premier League last season. Over the course of the last campaign the United defence was repeatedly exposed and looked frail. United’s pursuit of Jurrien Timber appears to be over with the Ajax and Dutch centre back set for a new deal with the side.

There is reported interest in Pau Torres but with his £60million valuation, a move could prove hard to pull off. Borussia Dortmund’s Dan-Axel Zagadou, who is now a free agent, is an option United could explore. The French footballer was a reported target of former interim boss Ralf Rangnick, who was interested in bringing him to Old Trafford. With the likely impending exits of Phil Jones and Eric Bailly, United could very well do with Zagadou as a free agent.

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