It was clear from very early on this season that there were a number of gaping holes in the Manchester United squad. And by the time Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had been sacked, hopes of a title charge and even a comfortable finish in the top four were looking ambitious at best.
Champions League qualification was the task handed to Ralf Rangnick when he became interim manager, so you’d have expected some sort of investment to be made in the January transfer window. There were no incoming, only outgoings, meaning United finished the window even weaker than when it first opened.
It’s not difficult to see why United would have been so hesitant to splash the cash in January. With a temporary manager at the helm, any big-money signings could soon be deemed surplus to requirements once a permanent manager was appointed. But by taking this approach, the club missed out on the chance to guarantee Champions League football next season.
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United are somehow still in the race for the top four, thanks mainly to the sides around them looking equally fragile. Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and even Chelsea have suffered poor results which have kept Rangnick’s men within touching distance of the top four, but could one or two new signings in January have given them the edge they needed?
When you look at the impact made by some of the Premier League’s January additions, it’s clear to see United have missed a trick. The winter transfer window is a notoriously tough time to do good business and is seen more as a chance to make emergency signings, but this year saw a number of quality additions made.
Luis Diaz was brought in by Liverpool and has slotted into the team seamlessly. The Colombian winger has only four goals and two assists in 17 games but has been a big part of how United’s rivals have worked the ball around the box and they experienced his quality first-hand when he scored and assisted in Liverpool’s 4-0 win at Anfield on Tuesday night.
Dejan Kulusevski has had a more obvious impact. The winger was signed by Tottenham from Juventus on loan and in 14 appearances he’s notched three goals and six assists. He was also joined at Spurs by Rodrigo Bentancur and he too has been a key part of Antonio Conte’s side.
Bruno Guimaraes, a midfielder who United themselves should have been looking at, joined Newcastle and has scored three goals and registered one assist, playing a crucial role in moving Eddie Howe’s side away from the relegation zone. United’s reasoning for not signing anyone was sound, but there were players out there who would have slotted into the team and would likely have fitted into the new manager’s plans as well. It seems United have paid the price for their inactivity.
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