The lack of activity in the January transfer window might just cost United domestic and European supremacy this season.
While it is true that United have plenty of firepower up front—Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck exemplify perhaps the best striking option in all of Europe—a few glitches do need to be fixed.
The current strike force is comparable with that of 1999/00, when United had the likes of Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole, Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to choose from.
Capable names are in the United midfield too—players like Antonio Valencia, Shinji Kagawa, Tom Cleverley, Anderson and Michael Carrick. The latter seems to have just his peak and United will rely on his exemplary performances for another two seasons at least.
However, that doesn’t mean that the midfield is an area that doesn’t need some substantial bolstering.
Clearly, squad depth is key to challenge on domestic and European fronts.
Defensively too, there are some minor adjustments to be made; although players like Jonny Evans and Rafael have improved tremendously and can be extensively relied upon.
Here are some positions that the Red Devils need to shore up this summer.
While Patrice Evra is undergoing a minor resurgence, he is no longer the dependable left-back he used to be. Though his offensive play has received a major boost, sometimes he is caught out of position and no longer shares the telepathic relationship he once enjoyed with his central defenders.
This season might be the last in which he holds down an assured starting place. From next season onward, he is most likely to be used sparingly.
Alexander Büttner and Fabio still need to undergo some major trials until they can be safely relied upon.
The best option is definitely Leighton Baines.
Composed, versatile and a natural leader, Baines would slot in quite well at Old Trafford. This season, he has already scored five goals and notched three assists. He has shown his versatility on set pieces and can also be dependable on spot kicks.
His crossing abilities are also sublime, he tracks back well and is not prone to lapses in concentration. According to Whoscored, he has a rating of 7.45—only behind the impeccable Marouane Fellaini on his club—and is also included in the Premier League Best Eleven of 2012/13.
Although he is 28 years old, he would be a welcome addition to the squad as Sir Alex Ferguson tries to build up a remarkably strong team to push for European supremacy.
Although the likes of Nani and Ashley Young can wreak havoc upon opposing defenses on any given day, the duo is wildly inconsistent and prone to injury problems. United might not rely on wingers as extensively as in the past, owing to their shift from a traditional 4-4-2 to more fluid formations, but quality wingers remain a trademark of the United game.
Neither Nani nor Ashley Young offer sufficient width, as they like to cut back inside way too much and can hog the ball for way too long.
United need to procure a strong left-winger in the mold of Antonio Valencia—someone who can offer much-needed width and can cross with precision.
It is true that Valencia has not been the player of last season and I believe it has to do with the tinkering of formations. He shall soon prove to be the indispensable player he once was.
Until last season, Michael Carrick was one of the scapegoats that United fans loved to cast their scorn upon when faced with subpar team performances. To most, he was simply an average player capable of passing only backwards and sideways. He was criticized for slowing the game down and offering next to nothing defensively.
However, the Englishman has slowly won the crowd over in his favour. His presence has been applauded greatly this season and most fans have come around and realized the immensity that is Michael Carrick.
Sir Alex recently had this to say regarding Carrick's performance (via the team's official website):
I think he's been magnificent. It's his best-ever season at the club and he's commanding that position. He's doing absolutely brilliantly. Even when he came on against West Ham, he helped ease us through the last 20 minutes. Good players do that. He came on and settled us down.
One of the best passers of the ball, Carrick has been stellar for United.
However, he needs to be paired with an equally strong central midfielder. Paul Scholes is aging, and while Phil Jones and Tom Cleverley have also been quite adept at playing alongside Carrick, they are yet to get to that world-class phase yet.
United would be wise to bring in a combative midfielder who can close opposition attackers down quickly and also tackle hard.
While Sir Alex keeps insisting (via The Daily Telegraph) that the modern-day game does not need rely upon hard tacklers, these midfielders are imperative to keeping clean sheets—something United have had a huge problem in maintaining.
Oftentimes, United suffer from a lack of sheer physical presence—something players like Tottenham's Moussa Dembele or Newcastle United's Cheick Tiote offer.
A strong defensive midfielder is conducive to retaining possession for longer periods of time, breaking up play and setting up a quick counter. Surely, United would benefit from the services of such a player.
This dilemma is a huge one. United have Nemanja Vidic, Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were also procured for a pretty penny and could be utilized there.
Vidic and Ferdinand are aging and also injury-prone. Jonny Evans might be the only player who can take over from the duo, but both Jones and Smalling have yet to go through a steep learning curve.
Have Jones and Smalling matured enough to handle the likes of Bayern Munich and Barcelona? If United were to face Borussia Dortmund, could these two fill in if injuries or suspension mitigated the presence of the Vidic, Ferdinand and/or Evans?
I am also completely unsure of whether it would be wise to bring in an experienced central defender or just develop the potential (which was quite expensive to procure) that United already have.
As I mentioned earlier, a physical presence in the defensive midfield might be enough, but that is if Sir Alex goes against himself and realizes that there is indeed room at United for a hard-tackling midfielder.
At this stage, United’s team looks pretty solid. The offensive threat has somewhat mitigated the defensive errors, but it might not be enough when United face the top teams of Europe.
First priority would be to bring in a capable left-back for next season and a strong defensive midfielder. Sir Alex has been tinkering with the formation, so a classic winger might not be all too necessary, but it would allow for more rotation—of both players and formations.
What are your opinions? Please comment below.
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