Whoever Manchester United turn to in a bid to strengthen their armory this summer, you can guarantee that a lavish amount of money will be spent in the transfer market.
United have a track record of spending big after failing to secure Champions League qualification and new manager Erik ten Hag, who was unveiled to the local, national and international media at an Old Trafford press conference last Monday, has not shirked from the size of the challenge awaiting him this summer. If anything, his decision by him to fly to Manchester within hours of his Ajax tenure drawing to a close, as opposed to jetting off on holiday for a well-deserved break, highlighted exactly that.
But before he was officially unveiled as United’s new boss at an Old Trafford press conference last Monday, the Dutchman took up a watching brief for the Reds’ last dance of the 2021/22 Premier League campaign, watching their 1-0 defeat to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park from the stands. It provided him with plenty of evidence about the sheer size of the challenge awaiting him, with United falling to a 12th league defeat of the season.
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Not only did the defeat to Palace mark the end of the Ralf Rangnick era, but it also, almost certainly, marked the end of the road for several United players. Big changes are to take place over the coming weeks and months, not least with the expected departures of a handful of big-name players, including Paul Pogba, Jesse Lingard and Edinson Cavani. They are all out of contract and are not expected to extend their Old Trafford careers beyond June 30.
Although the time is right for the trio to say their goodbyes, their departures will leave gaps within the squad that will need filling, even though none of them have played as often as they would have liked. But whilst Pogba and Cavani struggled to increase their appearance tallies this season because of injury woes, Lingard was simply overlooked time and time again, both by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Rangnick, despite being blocked from leaving the club more than once.
He was in the shop window last summer after a fruitful loan spell at West Ham United in the second half of the 2020/21 season and United could have secured a respectable transfer fee for him. Instead, as a result of Solskjaer’s false promise, they will lose him for free.
But even though he will leave United having barely played this season, he will need replacing, with Bruno Fernandes poised to be the club’s only remaining senior attacking midfielder. The midfield department is in desperate need of a major overhaul this summer and it promises to have a different look to it come the end of the transfer window in August.
Although the club need to prioritize the addition of a defensive midfielder above all else, Lingard’s vacated void will need filling. Step forward Michael Olise, who, because of injury, did not get the chance to try and capture Ten Hag’s attention last weekend.
The Palace youngster, who joined the London outfit from Championship side Reading almost a year ago, is one of the brightest talents in the Premier League and his potential is sky-high. The 20-year-old, who is hugely versatile across midfield and attack, ended this season with four goals and nine assists to his name – 13 direct goal contributions for a 20-year-old in his first season as a Premier League player is not to be sniffed at.
Although he came from the Championship, there was always a feeling that Olise would quickly adapt to Premier League life. He had excelled for Reading in the 2020/21 season, often weaving his magic from him in the No.10 position, and Palace’s decision to spend £8million on him was a bargain buy.
Fast forward almost 12 months and it is now being claimed that the youngster, who has been capped once for France at Under-21 level, has a £35million release clause in his contract. Although Olise still has plenty more gears to go through, it could be a price worth paying for United.
The Reds need to change their business model this summer, targeting young players with a point to prove and who could have high resale values in the future. Olise is a star in the making and some of his performances by him for Palace this season have been eye-catching.
Therefore, with United needing to recruit another attack-minded midfielder this summer, Olise could be just the ticket. His stock of him is on the up and a reported £35million release clause may be too good a chance to miss.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.